I have a friend, the third in as many months, sliding towards death. I am attached to dark thoughts as I approach the age my mother was when she died, thoughts that are triggered by so many losses. And then, fortunately, I find the place where I promise to greet each day as a new and bright opportunity. Why shouldn’t I live into my nineties like my father, Rob Reiner and Betty White—functioning well, intellect intact? In the best of those moments, I picture the luminous land where my family and friends who have left his planet are now dwelling. I think of it as the Imaginal World, where their energy continues to hold the truth of who they are, and where I can find them when I want to.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular and real.
I don’t even want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
from “When Death Comes” by Mary Oliver
Some philosophers and theologians believe that Jesus was in that world when he appeared to Mary Magdalene in the garden, fully himself, able to appear as human through his energy. There are many who believe that this world surrounds our cosmos and allows the meeting of the dead and living, especially those who were strongly connected in life. Others believe this is a temporary respite before a soul moves on.
Regardless of your religious affiliation or skeptical mind, this is a viable hypothesis. Physics teaches that Energy doesn’t die. Where it goes after death has always been a subject of speculation. I prefer to see the afterlife in images of energy, and when I deliberately go there through meditation, I am heart to heart with my lost loved ones. It is a comforting and beautiful experience, spoken of by Jesus in many of his parables and sermons. In other major religions, there are similar parallels. Many speak of the liminal world, those places where the worlds intersect. We experience this at dawn, dusk, falling asleep, awakening. It is a place of possibilities where we hear more of the truth of who we are in dreams, emotions and surfacing from other than conscious levels. I have met and held many in this space, living and gone, before sleep—and often in my dreams—awakening filled with joy.
Some time ago, I wrote about the beautiful Celtic teaching of making friends with death. Death, they say, is born with us, walks through life with us, and is there at the end—a presence that has become familiar if we choose to accept it. It helps to forget the pictures of death as the dark-robed skull wielding a scythe. I am now picturing death as a companion, one who has grown old along with me, and will be with me at the end.
Knowing that we will die would, ideally, cause us to live well. Audre Lorde wrote after her cancer diagnosis: “In becoming forcibly and essentially aware of my mortality, and of what I wished and wanted for my life, however short it might be, priorities and omission become strongly etched in a merciless light, and what I most regretted were my silences. Of what had I ever been afraid? I was going to die, if not sooner then later, whether or not I had ever spoken myself.”
It is true that we know everyone and everything dies, but do we really know it? If we did, the heinous crimes and simple everyday rudeness in our world would definitely lessen. If every moment we were energetically aware of the good or harm we were doing through our behavior, how could we continue to express racism, sexism, greed, narcissism, separation, envy and all the other negative energies Jesus warned us about so often? Every word Jesus spoke was about the heart and love. Speaking out for goodness and love counterbalances these negative energies.
- A simple step could change your life. In each step, imagine your energy gathered in your heart and flowing to each part of your body, and then out to others.
- Upon awakening, allow yourself a few quiet moments. Remember that this is a new day, a blank slate on which you will paint who you are in every moment. Picture your heart’s energy. Then, focus on where you want to be in this day, who you want to be in this day, and what legacy you would leave in the minds and hearts of those you love and your fellow beings.
- Stop during the day and recommit to what you discovered in the morning. If you are at work, a short pause is all it takes to shift the energy from your head to your heart.
- Before bed, ask for peace, calm and loving energy in your dreams. Reconnect, if you desire, with the energies of loved ones who have died. They will be happy to support your efforts to live, as Audre Lorde suggests, speaking yourself.
Again, I fall back on the beautiful poetry of Mary Oliver, who said in her poem
“The Summer Day”:
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?