Sooner or later, each one of us will have to sit in the deep silence of death. In the Western world, death, like old age, is shadowed by a terrible taboo.
I believe the veil between the living and the dead is gossamer thin. The dead are with us in invisible presence, transfigured into butterflies, free of their fleshy cocoons, close once more to the Creative Source. The work of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, the hospice movement, the mainstream acceptance of psychic mediums like John Edward and Sylvia Browne, to name only two, has brought comfort to so many. Yet in a world where contemporary thinking offers a narrative of death as an elemental process or an abrupt unravelling of a life with the promise of some far away realm in outer space, many of us live in fear or denial of the inevitable, ultimate, transformation. Sooner or later, Death darkens every life. Death is dreaded, denied, sanitised, and softened with euphemisms, like, “she passed away, or I lost my husband”… Like the hypocritical Victorians who covered the legs of the chairs in their homes, and unbuttoned their repressions with prostitutes in dark alleyways, death is demurely concealed behind a damask curtain. For those that die, it is their end of this world. For those who watch and wait, death unravels feelings of compassion, sorrow, and rage, and the deepest love. Silent stitch by silent stitch.
I believe that our ancestors lived more bravely, more honestly in the rawness of death than we do today. The rigid grasp of our religions, our governments, our medical profession, our skewed clutching to the sanctity of life, hold hostage those who long for the still sleep of death. Billions of dollars are spent on weapons of insane destruction. Vital lives are doused by laws that still uphold the ancient lie “an eye for an eye”. We shoot horses, euthanize pets, execute adulterers and criminals, slaughter young men and women in the absurdity of dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. Yet, so often, we embalm those we love with chemicals, life support systems, in our need to keep them in ensnared in a lack-lustre half-life. Death transports us to the imaginal realm, those who have experienced NDEs report. To non-ordinary states of consciousness, known to the shamans, and to pioneers like Stanislav Grof, one of the founders of the field of transpersonal psychology, as a realm that is accessible from this world.
I believe nobody dies empty, but full of radiance, ripe with the sweet fruits of a life lived, experiences garnered in a final harvest. Even those souls who come to this physical realm for a brief flicker, little buds that never unfurl, or souls that are jettisoned from their bodies in the mindless violence of war, or by murder, or fated accidents, will have a flame of inner life contained within the soul. In some traditions it is believed that the soul shelters the body and has a deeper knowing than the mind. Death empties the physical body, and it is the indestructible soul that carries our Essence beyond frontiers. All our experiences are transient, like dappled shadow and brilliant light. We carry a kaleidoscope of experiences that vanish like the smoke from a flame extinguished. Only our essence remains in the cycle of life and rebirth. Now as we approach the solstice, the dark dormancy of winter in the north, with the hope of rebirth of spring … the brilliant blaze of summer here in the south, soon tempered by the burnished bronze of autumn, we must pause, as the sun stands still, to cross the threshold into a new cycle of the year. I am comforted in the knowing that with every in breath, every emptying out breath that sustains my physical body, when the time comes for death to empty me, my soul will ferry me silently across still waters, where I will fly free as a butterfly sipping the nectar of new experiencing. And for my beautiful ya-ya sister, (I dedicate this to you) what more exquisite tribute to a life well lived, now so gracefully ending, from poet and visionary, William Wordsworth who writes, “our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting; the Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star hath had elsewhere its setting and cometh from afar; not in entire forgetfulness, and not in utter nakedness, but trailing clouds of glory do we come From God, who is our home.”
Dylan singing Knocking on Heaven’s Door.
Mama, take this badge off of me I can’t use it anymore. It’s gettin’ dark, too dark for me to see I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door. Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door Mama, put my guns in the ground I can’t shoot them anymore. That long black cloud is comin’ down I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door. Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door.
Christel LiebenbergDecember 9, 2011at11:15 am
Thanks for reminding us that those we love are always with us. Also that is human to grief and to miss those we’ve lost to another world.
AyalaDecember 9, 2011at11:27 am
My beautiful friend. You write so eloquently and it has been a year of good byes and new beginnings! Thank you for this. I’m going to pass it on to Kim’s family. She is 15years old and didn’t make her birthday this year.
Avanol BellDecember 10, 2011at12:48 am
Once again Ingy you have written so exquisitely about the only real certainty we have in this life.I love the imagery that you choose to convey your ideas around these complex issues.Your words will surely inspire those who read them delighting in the idea that at the end of it all there will be the possibility of experiencing the freedom of a butterfly as it darts from flower to flower.
If only the Western attitude to death had embraced the idea that this huge transformation from our earthly existence to more ethereal realms was cause for celebration.Then maybe for those who are left behind there would be the chance for real joy shining through the wrenching grief of loss;and for those that are leaving there would be no fear, only the excitement of what lay ahead, ecstatically embracing the final freedom from our mortal garment.
BeverleyDecember 10, 2011at1:33 am
It’s 1.24 in the morning? And I opened your blog.
I bow with deep respect, love and gratitude for you my darling ya- ya sister.
In the silence of the night I cry your dedication ” knock knock knocking on heavens door..mama take this badge off me I can’t use it anymore”
You are extraordinary!
lebamDecember 11, 2011at3:21 am
I agree .. you write beautifully on a matter of shared and sacred destiny..thank you Ingrid
Maeve MurranDecember 12, 2011at2:17 pm
So beautiful Ingrid – thank you for your wonderful and beautiful thoughts on this simple yet complex issue for so many!! I would highly recommend the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying (by Sogyal Rinpoche) – it is a Bible for everyone who will eventually leave this Earthly Realm.