Our relationship with life and death
Our relationship with life and death
“It is a sad fate for a man to die too well known to everybody else, and still unknown to himself"
Whatever our faith, it is often the case that our approach to death and dying does not reflect that which we believe.
Otherwise, why would the good Christian fear death, knowing that heaven was on the other side? Why would the atheist grieve, when he is of the view that our timespan on this earth is but an ephemeral and irrelevant speck of dust? If reincarnation were our belief, then why would we be affected so deeply and why would we grieve so if we knew we were coming back? Our approach to death is not just hypocritical, it just does not make sense.
Death is the most inevitable part of life, and we choose to ignore its imminent coming, instead looking at it for the most part with fear and disdain. Yet it is often in the presence of death that we receive our greatest revelations. Death puts things in perspective. Those things we thought mattered soon have little relevance, and we start to reflect on all that is important to us. It is a moment for us to stop, to consider… to reflect.
One of our greatest revelations is how we hold back expressing our true un-contained affection for another – until they have passed over, when we are suddenly consumed with the grief of what we have lost.
Emotions boil over, and all the things we wished we had said rise to the surface of our thoughts. In that moment we rarely consider that perhaps such grief is never for those who have died.
In truth, it is our grief – a grief born out of the fact that we held back expressing how we truly felt whilst the person was alive. It is our grief, knowing that such a relationship was not lived in the fullness that was offered by such constellation.
The tragedy of our approach to death is that we do not want to see death as an ongoing cycle of life. It is the open secret that everybody knows, but we dare not speak about. And so, when another dies, we act surprised, as though it was something that could not be foreseen, when the quiet truth is that it has been dawning upon us all since the day we were born.
We become lost in sympathy and sadness out of respect for the person that has passed away, not knowing how to express otherwise, for we have not truly expressed for so long.
I find it strange that we most often mark someone’s passing with sadness and regret – that a funeral is mostly one of solemn tears. We are conditioned to act as though it is a terrible thing that they have moved on, and should we express anything but remorse, we are seen as heartless. Famous people who may be strangers to us pass over, and the media cajoles us into expressing our condolences. We must show a sad face. It is the done thing. We lower flags to half-mast, and lower our hats as though to suggest that death is the ultimate tragedy. And maybe it is, if you believe that life is but the summation of our physical years.
But all of this distracts us from the fact that there is a greater tragedy than death, and that is the tragedy of the way we choose to live.
I look out the window of my house and I do not see a world enamoured with its own glorious self. I see a world consumed by anxiety and struggle.
I see a world taken by ideals that govern how we think we need to be. I see men quietly meandering through life, sadly resigned to life’s meagre offerings, and women getting on with yet another fruitless day. “Ah, tomorrow, may you bring me better fortune than today, although I am resigned to the probability that you will not. Such is life.”
If it is indeed tragedy that requires commemoration and condolences, then our flags should be permanently left at half-mast, and our hats should always be lowered, for surely we must grieve that there is so little joy expressed in the world.
Some of us fight the good fight, and others momentarily rise to glory on the back of their achievements. But for the most part, even such glory is ephemeral. No one really remembers who won Gold in the Helsinki Olympics, and whilst they may remember the name of who was the first to climb Mount Everest, they would hardly remember who came second, or third. Even if they do, it is hardly in their daily thoughts.
We put so much effort as a society into praising the achievements of others. And if our achievements do not stack up by comparison, we live quietly destitute that our life is not what we imagined it could be. Jealousy consumes those who do not achieve the great heights of their dreams, whilst those who get there are consumed by the emptiness of their achievements.
Our elderly are no better. The old man or woman is often not so much wise as they are lost in the regret of all that they have not lived. More often than not they have moved on well before death comes to their doorstep, such is their despair.
We should learn to appreciate more, love more, spend more time pondering on the magnificence of our being… open up, have the courage to express in tenderness, forget the argument, and stop needing to prove who was right and who was wrong.
But we don’t. Defence is our end game, and we live protected to the end.
Anxiousness and busyness consume us, and life goes by. It is no wonder that we cry when another close to us passes over. We never truly got to know them.
So we hold on, clinging to the illusion that what was, still is, when the truth is, that which was, can no longer be, and in truth perhaps never was.
We bind ourselves in memories that were not even true, desperate as we are to remember something good. We are consumed by grief and guilt, not realising that life, meanwhile, continues to blossom on our doorstep – dancing to the eternal rhythm of a harmonious and divine beat that constantly calls us to know and understand that life has no end, and no beginning, no high, no low, no middle.
It is simply a universal pulse, a pulse to which we all belong. The cycle of life is such that there is always an opportunity to live again that which we have not chosen before. That is its true beauty. There is no death, only love, and it is a love that is eternally ours should we remember.
“In the hour of your passing
you will meet the light of your making
and in an instant you will know
whether you have lived your love
or whether you have lived a lie”