Friday, May 27, 2011

Death and Living

I am surrounded by death and dying, and have never understood more about life and living. Where has all this been hiding, or where have I been hiding? Dying happens every day, all over the planet, so how come I am only brushing up against it now? No, I am not brushing, I am smack at the heart of that world, and it is a whole world. It has its own light and smells, it has death experts and sounds, a language and a face, it measures time differently and dismisses even the most fundamental non-essentials. Death redefines life.

And so, one of life's amazing revelations takes form in the midst of death; perhaps this is the ultimate gift of the dying. It is a heavy task, this dying business. As always, we the living try to help, control, change it. We interfere with a natural law, and so, as always, we fail. But if we listen, the dying tell us: leave it alone.

Then there is this whole new notion of strength - what it is, where to find it, how to use it. No one like the dying to help you realize that frailty, vulnerability and gentleness have nothing to do with weakness, but all the opposite. The will power of the dying is just that -- power. Power to hold on as needed, power to let go when ready, power to change relationships and make manifest the beauty of the living. Colors are more vibrant; love, forgiveness, acceptance more at hand. Those who work among the dying know this. And if ever you think they are the givers, look again.

Perhaps one of the toughest jobs of the dying is to make peace with how they have been living. Creatures of habit, we will die as we have lived, I think, with struggle and conflict and anger, or with yielding, acceptance and forgiveness. Most likely, there will be a mix of it all, for is that not what shapes the living? Still, one path is clearly easier than the other. The gift: here's our chance to resolve that now or when we are dying. We choose. I don't know how, but I do know we choose.

Just one thing I have not yet figured out from the dying: how to fill the bottomless hole of their absence from the living.

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