In my recent browsing of the web I found a humorous article written about two years ago. In it a writer with whom I have a curious relationship – I admire him without necessarily looking up to him – was criticized for writing columns that have ‘no coherent, developed thought on anything.’ I must have sat too close to that guy and had one too many conversations with him for I have heard the same. Yet I lack the urge to write something ‘coherent’ enough for certain sections of the literary public to appreciate. His writing signature puts a meal on his plate, so he goes right on being his own person. To imitate is to miss life. Don’t we have enough unauthentic structured writings in publication? And should I be concerned of what I would become when I am his age? I am halfway there and have long known that I need not imitate. Someone asked: why try to be somebody when there is so much more to be? He may never encounter this article, but to him I say: Keep on keeping on. Okay, let’s get on with those undeveloped thoughts. Shall we?
A few days ago the Matron of one of the Homes I visit caught up with me. She inquired of the cessation of treatment of a particular resident. I advised her that I had a conversation with his sister about such and was permitted to stand down. Every bone in my body wanted to do that since last year, but all manner of justifications to the contrary came up. For one, he had given up on speech, yet when I told him what I wanted to do and asked if he was in agreement he found a No. I asked if he was sure that he wanted me to continue the treatments. Yes. Very well. He was not talking to the Nurses or family members, but audibly stated his preference to me. I continued. Two weeks ago when I visited him I was certain that our journey together in the flesh was over.
I barely made it through the hour awake, and maybe alive. It was a yawning session. At first I found logical reasons. When I ran out of those I allowed myself to flow with him. In my mind’s eye (for lack of a better way to put it) we were on two end of one rope. I was pulling one way, he was pulling the other. Spiritual tug-o-war. It was disturbing for both of us because I did not want to go to his side and he did not want to come to mine, and the constant jerking of each other was aggravating. He has arrived at a place where he no longer desires the things we associate with life. One could say he wants to die, or is dying. And having experienced the visual/emotional drama of our situation I certainly did not want to be pulled over to his side. Up until this point I was helping, but now that help had become interference. So I decided to abandon the session. But I couldn’t. My hands kept massaging him and my mouth kept yawning and I felt myself drifting into a strange sleep right on my two feet. Like I was in a…deep meditation, not an immediate arrival, but a sinking into. Hmmm. These words are not letting me say this right.
Another part of me, not the one massaging, decided it wanted to see, to feel, to understand. It was like drowning then returning to the surface and gasping in panic, then drowning again. None of which was evident as I was still standing there do my massage. The drowning was the sleep, a drifting into unconscious with an awareness that I was unconscious, then fully awaking again and consciously knowing I was conscious. You do see my predicament with these words. It was the longest hour I’ve had since birth. We spend our lives living, or so we think, but most of it is spent avoiding death, so that when death has to be dealt with, we activate our built-in anaesthetics – unconsciousness. Take me if you must, but don’t let me be aware. I cannot say with certainty that my client is dying unconsciously though it could well have been that our connection in the moment was revealing this to be his state. But it could also have been that I was fortifying myself with unconsciousness because I have deep fear of death and being in its presence to whatever degree I was, I too was opting for the unconscious route. I have read of persons who died consciously, and a past client spoke of his father who a member of a/the Vedanta society whose meditations facilitated him doing so. Therefore it is safe to say that there are persons inviting and greeting death, and even interrupting their journey with death to have a moment of physical interaction before continuing. An experience to die for. Don’t you think?
Having tortured myself with, then submitted to the events of that hour a desire arose in me to die consciously. After that session I asked the Nurse for his sister’s number. I tried in vain for the next few days to make contact with her. Then one morning she called me. I told her of my decision to release him and why. My son was overhearing the conversation and opened his eyes wide. He is concerned that I will be left alone in this world because I would have worn out the last thread of everyone’s patience with my far-fetched theories. Possible. But after hearing me the sister said she understood what I was saying. Amen. What troubled me was that having had brain surgery and lived two decades after testifying of God’s healing powers and winning many for the Church, he may be departing this life an unconscious soul. That hurts in places I can’t touch. I am a hypocrite enough to claim concern for him, but my inner tears are really over personal concern that the possibility of what is happening to him could happen to me.
Needless to say, having decided on consciously dying, cues were suddenly everywhere saying: know death. Ha! This week the messages seemed louder. A client from forever who did not do a massage for me in a decade called, and visited. We had regular conversation. Then without warning she said she does not know if I believe in those things, but that someone used necromancy to try to kill her. Is anyone else having these ‘massage’ discussions? I listened. A triangular love affair taken to the max. And for all the anguish she experience, somehow her date with death was no more than a brief visit. More like it was passing by to check on her. As these stories go, she saw all manner of backdoor practitioners. Each had different demands and tossed up theories. One advised that she was fragmented. She was seen as having many missing part. So let’s say she had pain in her fingers, this was because her forearm was missing and the finger had no direct connection to her body. Her many experiences included seeing a shadow in front of everything she looked at. No medical justification found. Then someone who could see saw and told her a worm (not sure if it was physical) was eating her eye on the inside. And the worm was removed, spiritually. Worse still, whatever the other woman did or had done was causing her to rot on the inside and this weakened her bone structure.
So let’s get his right. My client’s husband became prodigious after seeing the light in another woman. While he remained blinded by the light, his wife was seeing the dark side of the woman which kept bringing death to her door. And I wondered if death is an unintelligent energy to not know that it was about to visit the same address. Did death have the courtesy to apologise for knocking on her door so often when she was not officially on its list of candidates? And did she utilize these visits to become acquainted with death? No. She saw it, then sent it away. Death probably grieves at being the most rejected thing on earth. She could have said: while you are here could you tell me a bit about yourself? I’m alone, the good man of the house is gone, could you sit with me a bit? No, she saw it, feared it, and ushered it off. The intensity of our feelings and curiosity of sex only rivals that of death. And we repress both. Sex is like the shadow of birth. We need that creative energy to create, so once we are considering a birth, we have to deal with sex. Death is the shadow of life, so just being here begets death. A shadow belongs with the object that creates it and we can no more run from it than we can from our own shadow. That would be a great waste of energy. Children engage their shadow. They play with it until we teach them to fear it.
Meditation gives us time and scope to play with death, to see how it moves when we move, to understand a few things about it, to lose our fear of it. Let’s think of mathematics. We add two and two and we get five. And we live with that understanding until someone breaks it down to us and the recount reveals that two and two are four. Do we now try to get rid of five? How can we? There was no five in the first place, just our misconception, just our incorrect calculation. So too the idea of knowing death is to bring about right understanding and behaviour towards it and automatically the fear, the wrong concept will disappear without desire or efforts to do remove them. The example of a coconut is used. If you try to separate the shell from the kernel when it is young, both break. When the coconut is dried this very act of separation is quite possible. The shell can be removed and the kernel remains whole. This happens because the kernel would have shrunken and a little space would have been created between it and the shell. The two are but no longer attached. Through meditation a space between who we are and our body is gradually created, and we experience little proofs of this. This prepares us for that time when the body has to be broken that we will not fear, but observe.
The story is told of Socrates’ attitude towards death being one of eagerness. He was there with some of his follower and gave them a blow by blow account of what he was experiencing, even as they cried. He reiterated that though parts of his body were shutting down, he was still there, and therefore was not his body. The kernel was very much alive and well. That was a long time ago so we can declare it a fable. But as a child my great grandmother told a very similar story. She was there during her husband’s departure and he did the same. He told her when his feet lost their feelings, and kept going all the way up. She told of how his tongue eventually got heavy and his speech was slurred and he left her one wish, that the Lord will always be her Shepherd. He died reciting Psalm 23 for her. This reinforces for me that conscious dying is alive and well and we can experience it too. For to die unconscious is to be born unconscious and having done enough of that I desire a new experience.
When I take a taxi from home to the Croisee, then take another to Port of Spain, it is done consciously, otherwise I’d be in shock as to how I reached the Croisee and even more shock that I am in Port of Spain. The kernel remains and the shell is changed. Unconscious birth leaves us puzzled for decades as to why we are here. We can’t remember where we were before, or why we are somehow a member of the wrong family. Our bodies are our modes of transport for different legs of our journey. To declare myself dead because a taxi in which I travelled stopped at the Croisee must be a grave misunderstanding. It is time to get another taxi and continue on to Port of Spain, not gaze around in the Croisee crying over the parked car. Death is the stop that facilitates a vehicle change. I think of Jesus and His dying prayer requesting forgiveness for those killing Him. We think that He did this because they were killing a good man. Nah. I think He meant that they needed forgiveness for not knowing that they were killing a person who cannot die, they were attempting the impossible. They were trying to get rid of the five that their addition of two and two made. He knew with certainty that it was four so their efforts at the five must have been a remarkable sight from where he hung. And, having known the separation of His kernel from His shell, death totally lacked any sting. He was safely within watching their ardent efforts to without and knowing that hitherto can they come, His shell, but no further.
Many of the clients I would have shared stories about have transitioned. For this year alone about six have departed. Maybe I have had preconception contracts with them to participate in this stage of their lives to learn to engage and therefore know death. Maybe my recent client had a preconception contract with the ‘outside’ woman to create this catalyst in her marriage that would bring her into a new level of awareness of who she is by seeing what she is not, her body. When we encounter a person, we are first closer to their clothing that we are to them, unless they are naked. The clothing is not the person, but if the clothing is scary and we stand back or turn away, then we will not know the person in the clothing. The next leg of our journey is clothed in death so we need to see beyond it to understand the continuity of life, our life. How else can we know with certainty that no one has ever die?
It is back to yin and yang. The inhalation and the exhalation. The coin will always have two sides. We do not panic each time we exhale for we know from personal conscious experience that inhalation is soon to follow. Life begs of us to have the same conscious knowledge of its relationship with death, for only then would we be truly living. Otherwise, we are men running from our shadows, directing much of our spiritual, physical, mental, etc. resources towards the prevention of death and calling it ‘living’ while life silently looks on. Amused perhaps. Sometimes we spend years watching our loved one amble around in their degenerated vehicles, but we forbade them to change bodies to facilitate their continued journey. Yet they must, and out of decency they ask us, beg us not to grieve over the change, yet we do. We will meet again, we say when it is the loved one of another, but in our own distress we questing this. Unconsciousness plagues us and we fear that even if we meet again we might not recognise them, so it’s best not to let them go. Their death is and inconvenience to us. Look at all the things we’d have to deal with in their absence. Don’t you dare go! You hear me! Get back here! Many a dead man’s chests have been beaten by fists.
Pardon our behaviour, we are afraid, not that they are gone, but that we are alone. Ever noticed how scared we are when we are alone, and how comforted we are when we have company? It is understandably hard to lose the person who brought us comfort. We have to look ahead knowing they will not be in our line of vision any more…maybe. And if they are not there to whom will be look, and what will we see? Well, in the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord. Look! It’s a glorious sight, that which become visible after death. To survive the loss we have to change our view, which would change our approach to life. If we have been changing our view all along, getting acquainted with ourselves, testing the separation of the kernel and the shell, when the loss occurs our emotions will kick in, but peace will prevail, for we know…we don’t say goodbye.
We look at fashion trends and we like or dislike what we see. The ones we like we try on and purchase. What are the trends in death? We don’t know because we don’t look. We avoid people at that stage of life, we stay inside when a funeral is passing, and the few deaths that we might have seen were sudden or a bitter struggle. Naturally we don’t want to try that on, but maybe if we can if we see death from our own perspective it might be different. Still not enticing. So every time the shell cracks, the kernel is affected. Whatever happens to our body keeps happening to us and we live in more misery than we admit, and again, we call God into it. If during sickness we can be detach a little from the body and know that our core is not sick, that would be a good start. I’ve always known my great grandmother to be involved in the extremities of life, births and deaths. By the time her husband was ready to leave she had the understanding to walk with him to the extent that she could then let him go. There were whispers when it was observed that she had another relationship. What she wanted with a man? Ah-ha! Creative energy had not stopped. Her purpose had not ended. It was her husband’s shell that was buried, not hers.
As for the prodigious husband, he returned home to a wife who experienced an awakening through her circumstances. He cannot recall what it was that made him so driven to leave in the first place. Hmmm. Be it a loved one, a relationship, a job, or a dream; death can only take from us that which birth gave us. If we can appreciate this maybe the pain we experience from the various forms of separation that life demands will lose its sting sooner than later.