Basking in Death
This one is dedicated to those who so bravely teach us how die. May we learn how to die before we die so we can truly live. It is called “Basking in Death”. I wrote it months ago after a hospital visit to a family friend. Tonight I post it in honor of her, other dear friends lost and my husband’s sweet aunt who passed away just minutes ago.
Basking in Death
There she was lying there hours away from dying. She was still breathing but not conscious. Her mouth was hanging open much like a person in deep sleep. My husband wanted to go and say goodbye to this kind woman he has known his whole life. Death is always hard to see. Watching someone who is usually so full of life even in her illness lying there, still breathing but mostly gone is jarring. Death feels like a haunting presence. It brings up a lot of questions, emotions and mystery.
After saying our goodbyes we ran into some family downstairs at the hospital. We visited for a while and for a few minutes talked about life after death each of us sharing our musings. One of our relatives talked about her belief in reincarnation and how right now our friend’s soul could be traveling to enter a baby about to be born. One of my in-laws said, “That baby already has a soul. Maybe it’s a baby about to be conceived”. I added, “Yeah, maybe someone is taking a pregnancy test, and the result is confusing”. Everyone was taking comfort in the idea that our friend lives on and laughing a little about exactly how that happens as if anyone really knows. After taking it all in I said, “Man, I hope she gets a long beach vacation or something first. It seems like a lot of work to have to immediately begin again”. Everyone erupted in laughter. It was hilarious especially because I was serious.
The next morning we found out she passed away. In my sadness I giggled thinking about the pregnancy test possibly being clearer today. Then I found myself thinking, “I hope she gets to bask in death for a while.” Death – the point at which we stop completely. We are so afraid of it we make any kind of stopping the devil including stopping to simply to rest. We’ve got to keep moving, proving and producing. We have to make our mark. We have to LIVE! Why is it that we don’t wish people would “rest in peace” until they die? It is as if living and resting in peace can’t coexist. Here on Earth it is all about doing for the humans anyway! At least that’s the case where I live on Earth.
Have you heard the old adage, “A body in motion stays in motion. A body at rest stays at rest”? I don’t understand what is wrong with that. Yeah, yeah, I know the saying is meant to promote exercise, but I am more concerned that it promotes “rest and you will die”. You must keep going no matter what!! What the hell? A body that rests is a healthy body. Think about it. You get sick, you are told to rest. I have never heard of rest causing harm. To the contrary rest often cures what ails us when even traditional medicine won’t. It’s rest AND motion not rest OR motion. They are both necessary, but we marginalize rest. We have made real rest an unproductive thing, and I could not disagree more. Even phrases like “power through” marginalize rest even though they may not mean to. Producing and doing are revered and resting is lazy or somehow not enough. We walk around trying to prove how much we have to do as if it legitimizes us. Sadly, it does to many people. It places us higher in some strange hierarchy that we seem to accept as true.
Learning how to truly rest is one of the most productive things I have ever done! I am not only talking about rest when I actually stop, get still and breathe, play dead, nap or sleep. I am also talking about the rest that comes when I allow things to happen instead of reacting to every little thing and living in a state of brace. When I get my mind out of the way and die to the idea that there is certain way of doing things, I am able to tap into my own way of doing things (my own nature) and things happens so much more effortlessly. I get way more done in smaller amounts of time, and it often feels like my everyday self isn’t the one doing things. It is like I have tapped into a bigger self. None of this would be possible without stopping.
We separate life and death just like we do everything else. We make one good and one bad. If one is happening then the other is not, which nature consistently disproves with her seasons. Nature, with her seasons, shows us life and death happening simultaneously all year long. In her own way she reminds us that, “Death is not the end. It is the release”.   Hampl, Patricia, Virgin Time (Ballantine Books), p.14