As I enter my third act in life, a period I think of as 'Embracing Your Wisdom' stage, I find myself experiencing what some might call a life review, as if I were dying. I'm not dying (at least as far as I know) but I am allowing myself to go through the same process many experience as near death, the deep reviewing of life and making peace with my decisions and choices. I want to be peaceful with myself and my past so that I can enter a more freeing state of mind and body. I don't think we have to wait for death or have a near death experience to learn some really deep and important lessons from our life.
*Death is not the opposite of life,
it is a part of it.
Even though I believe death is a natural process of life as is birth, I used to turn my head away from death's lessons. What a shame too because I think death and birth are our greatest teachers for how to truly live. I have always felt more alive when embracing a newborn baby but I must admit I felt like I was going to die when saying goodbye to a love one. Yet goodbyes always remind me to treasure my limited time on Earth. Saying goodbye has never been as easy as saying hello. So I thought, doesn't it make sense to want to learn how to let go more gracefully? Even though I have always had a underlining desire to study death and dying I also had a fierce resistance to it as well.
This all change when my dear mother-in-law, (who was like a mother to me) made her transition. I felt like it was the most beautiful gift she could have given to me. She moved through the entire process with the most beautiful grace and love. She never complained or displayed a sense of fear. I learned so much about the natural process of dying. Of course I know a lot of this had to do with the fact that she was ready to let go. She had lived a full life without regrets. I learned so much about life by facing my fear of death.
One of my favorite memories was also one of the last times she was conscious with us. My daughter had asked to buy a Christmas music card for her. I will never forget her display of pure joy and wonderment like an innocent child opening her first gift. As she smiled and looked around the room at everyone barking orders of how she should do this or that or what they could do for her not realizing her time with us was now very limited, she said, "this is a very busy world." I knew she had already been in and out of this world. I will never forget how she cherished that simple musical card, opening it again and again to hear its magic. She embraced it as if it contained the entire world. No one noticed her pure joy except my daughters and me. Yes, it was a fleeting moment but it will also last my entire lifetime. It was such a wonderful reminder of how to cherish the simple joys of life, for they are truly the most treasured gifts of all.
I know death feels like it steals away our hope while birth feels like it gives us hope, but I am beginning to see that both can give us hope and teach us how to live...truly live our lives. That is if we are brave enough to experience these gifts more intimately.
Through my own internal life review process I am learning to forgive myself for things I did to myself and to others. This is not an easy journey. Whether we are called to learn about ourselves inwardly or outwardly much of the same things can be learned. For me the call just got louder and stronger until I finally let go of the resistance. Was I being guided or even pushed inward? Maybe, I don't think I would consciously choose to walk this scary path but I am learning more than I thought I could about myself. In my youth, I am sure the thought never crossed my mind to look backwards, I was too busy climbing smaller mountains. There was more in front from which to learn than there was from behind. But now I find self-reflection to be a more gentle and graceful way to see not only where I have been but also to plan where I choose to go.
Does it take courage to muster the strength to dive into the shadows of my past so that I can mine the pearls of wisdom within?
Absolutely! Tremendous courage.
But it takes even more courage to allow myself to share my process for all to see and judge if they so choose.
Birth is not the beginning
nor is death the end.
On a side note. Yesterday I was talking to a Hospice worker named Emily about my aunt's death directive and how I wanted her to be comfortable and without pain but also to allow her to have a natural parting, on her on terms. This was how my aunt lived and how she wanted to leave this world. I told Emily that my aunt has always been very strong and I wanted her 'will' to be the guideline. I said I know the world is still so afraid of death and that is why they try to control it so much. which actually does not allow the individual to go in peace and on their own terms. There is a selfishness about the way we try to control death which is often misguided as compassion. Emily and I talked so more and she said, "you should be a Hospice worker. Few understand the death process and your gifts are so needed." I had thought of volunteering before. However I still take too much emotional energy of others so it would not be healthy for me at this time.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if one day we understood death more and feared it less? If we were not so selfish about our loves ones being called home just as the other side misses the love ones being born here. If we realized that everyone on a higher level knows they are going home and on deeper level are ready for the transition. Most often our love ones try to tell us on some level about a week, a month or the last time they saw us before their departure that they love us. It is almost like their goodbye. It might be something they said or they might come in a dream. Some may even connect with us after their departure, like in a dream or some form to say, "I am okay".
I think we are having more and more near death experiences due to the technology that allows us to bring people back after their heart stops. I am sure we are also ready to face death more. Not only are we very thankful that we can saves lives but maybe this ability to bring people back from death is also teaching us some very valuable lessons. Every near death experience I have had the honor of reading or listening to had many things in common, but one of the most important is the individuals come back unafraid of death as well as a deep appreciation for life and for others. They often change their jobs to serve others. I think that should ease our pain and fear about death a little.