On Death and Remembering

sandias picture

“Because a man is sick often, and each time gets well, is that proof that he will never die?”

–John Steinbeck in “To a God Unknown”

 

I think it is valuable to contemplate death; Both in the sense of our own mortality and also in the instances of losing loved ones: friends and family. In our culture, we seem to have such a conditioned aversion to death and dying and even the process of loss that I think it is a worthy exploration.

I know that for myself, I have developed a more peaceful relationship to death only through turning towards it with curiosity and openness. What is this all about, this aching feeling of loss? It is an evolving relationship, but nonetheless, I am grateful that I can experience certain moments of embracing death and loss as a natural part of the process of life…with it’s own highs and lows and complexities. The following is a short piece I wrote on my feelings at the moment…

 

On Death and Remembering

I used to think that I had to feel sad when I thought of you

Now, when I think about you, it often makes me joyous

This joy is rich and complex

It is a joy that is weightless and light as cool mountain air

A joy of rustling leaves and the sound of laughter carried away with the breeze

As these sounds fade, it is a joy tinged with sorrow

 

I used to think that death was the end of life

Perhaps death is less finite than we think?

What if the death of a person is like the death of plants?

On the farm, I used to be so averse to the tilling in of unharvested crops

Now, I see it is less about the death of the plants in front of you and more about nourishing the soil for the plants to come

Within death, there is also a renewal of life

I hope that my life can provide for others as yours has mine

 

I used to think that holding on was a delusion or a denial of death

Some things, though, naturally linger and move on in their own time

I have a shirt that reminds me of you. It is gray and frayed and becoming less wearable each time I put it on

Your voice in my head, is softer and more gentle now. But, when I listen, it is there. ‘I love you’ it says

I still have your phone number saved in my cell phone

I still think of you when I hear “Lemon Tree” by Peter, Paul, and Mary

I do not wish to return to what was

These rememberings are just a pleasant way of experiencing you still in my life