Going Gently Into That Good Night

"When we have done all the work we were sent to do, we are allowed to shed our body, which imprisons our soul like a cocoon encloses the future butterfly." - Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross "To fear death is nothing other than to think oneself wise when one is not. For it is to think one knows what one does not know. No one knows whether death may not even turn out to be one of the greatest blessings of human beings. And yet people fear it as if they knew for certain it is the greatest evil." – Socrates "When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live you life in a manner so that when you die the world cries and you rejoice." - Native American Proverb

"Life is a dream walking. Death is going home." - Chinese proverb There is no doubt in my mind that something exists beyond this physical plane. I sometimes wonder if my entire journey into the world of energetic medicine all boils down to an obsession with learning the truth about what lies between this world and the next. So what does my experience leave me with, at this point? I know that energy never dissipates, it simply changes forms. I know that we all possess infinite amounts of this energy, and that we can affect everything around us with its radiance. And there is nothing that can change that, not even death itself.

I have been fortunate enough to have known death as a merciful respite from pain and suffering. All of my grandparents passed on after long bouts of illness, and when they left, they left exhausted and longing for an end. I have also been fortunate enough to be given a glimpse of the essential essence of the soul that remains after departing this world, an essence that retained the memory and emotion that was once the core of its character. For years after my grandmother's death, I would feel her around me so strongly that I would sometimes say her name out loud, half-expecting her to answer. She would come to me in dreams that were astonishingly vivid, and even passed on information in these dreams that was later proven true. I still get emotional remembering the night she came to me and held both my wrists as she talked about how proud she was of what I was doing with my life...and as I woke up, I could feel her hands gripping my wrists as clearly as I feel the chair beneath me right now.

This romanticized vision of death is all well and good, but then there is the other side: the ending that comes far too early. We may breathe a sigh of relief at the passing of an old woman suffering a long illness, but what about the 20-year-old who perishes in a car accident? Or the mother in her thirties who is diagnosed with breast cancer? The very idea of death in these cases seems to be an affront to all that we believe in. We are not meant to die before really living; children should outlive parents; death should be an end to suffering, not to happiness. As impossible as it seems to view death from another angle in these cases, there is this: we need to find comfort in our ignorance. We don't know what the meaning is behind the loss...but that doesn't mean there isn't one that we don't yet understand.

I remember sitting at the funeral of a friend a few years ago, a friend who had passed far too early. Nate had developed colon cancer in his mid-twenties, and passed after a brief but courageous battle. His family was very religious (I believe they were Baptists), and as I sat there weeping during the funeral, what struck me the most was the difference in attitude between his friends and family. On the "friend" side of the church, we were all sobbing inconsolably. On the family side, however, there was a lot of talking, and even an occasional laugh. As Nate's friends took turns standing up and talking about him, each broke down and could barely finish. Then a member of Nate's family stood up to speak. He laughed a bit, and chided us for being so sad, when this was an occasion of happiness: Nate's suffering was over. He was home now, with his father, and watching over us. We were just upset because we couldn't see the other side of it all; we couldn't see outside of our own loss.

I remember thinking that faith was an incredible thing; if you could accept the death of your own child with that much grace, maybe religion wasn't so bad after all. I wasn't sure if I bought into the whole "Nate is watching over us" idea, but it was nice to think about.

Then we all headed to the cemetery. The day fitted our mood; it was pouring, windy, and the sky was almost black with clouds. We watched as Nate was slowly lowered into the earth, and suddenly...the clouds parted above us, directly over the casket. A beam of light shot out from between the clouds, so dazzling that we were all almost blinded by it...and this light poured down onto Nate, while we all gasped. It was so strange and surreal; the entire sky was black but for this one beam of light that encased the casket, then disappeared. We talked about this event for years, and even today, I still get chills thinking about it.

Today's blog was inspired by someone who is, as I write this, ready to pass far too soon. Whether her friends and family read this or not, I hope that they can find peace and strength in the wake of their loss...and maybe, eventually, even some meaning.