Saturday, November 5, 2016

Continuing the Season of Death

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn; ....
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything 
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility

~ Mary Oliver

Today was a day for encountering and addressing death.
As I volunteered at a literary fair early in the day, a young woman shared that she was writing a book about death. We discussed the awkward way our culture encounters or ignores both death and the processes that bring us closer to it. We shared resources on the topic and I felt that simple sensation of synchronicity ~ being in the right place at the right time and paying attention to what surfaces. When I asked her what she was writing, she could have dodged the question. She didn't. Her directness opened me to share a resource I'd recently received on the same topic. A brief, but touching conversation and a recognition of not being alone in my explorations of topics relating to death.

Leaving that setting, I received a message from a friend about the likelihood of taking her old dog to the vet to have him put to sleep. She was struggling between her desire to have him out of pain and her attachment to having him in her life. We spent a few moments slipping between that quiet space of friends sharing the unknown sadness and conversing about how or when it might happen.

My next stop of the day was the church where we were going to celebrate the life of a friend who had recently died. I was helping set the hall for the reception happening afterward. During the memorial service, family members and friends shared stories and memories of our absent friend. It was good to share the space, the stories, the farewells. Continuing the celebration and memorial at a local pub, we chatted about the health of other friends and what those challenges might mean in the near future.

As I drove home, I reflected on the conversations and the deep heart space I shared with each and all of the people on this day. I thought of Mary Oliver's poem When Death Comes. Her words talk about grabbing life for all its worth, being alive fully, so that when death comes, which it will for each of us, we can say we were present to all life had to offer.

Until death comes for me or for those close to me, I face the choice of avoiding it or confronting it or embracing it or acknowledging it. They aren't mutually exclusive choices ~ and my choices may change from one moment to the next.

Where do you stand in your expression of life? How much do you invest in avoiding the topic of death? How do you want to be remembered when you die? What more would you like to do in your life?

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