Death Is Just a Change of Form, It Is Not an End.
COVID-19 is presenting us all with an opportunity to become more aware of our relationship with death.
I think this is something we need to bring our loving presence to, because if we can accept the stark reality of death, then we can live fully, softly, passionately, openly, in a state of inter-connectedness, which right now most of us can hardly begin to even imagine.
Death is the only certainty, yet it’s something that most of us try not to think about. We push all thoughts of death deep into the unconscious and do everything we can to avoid being reminded that someday we will die and everyone we love will die.
The only way to repress our knowing of death is to repress all that makes us human. Our inherent aliveness is dampened down, our ability to love, to empathize, to feel anything, is curtailed. The denial of death leads to us living half-lives.
The human experience is temporary and yet we cling on to the delusion that it is a permanent state of being. This is captured so eloquently by the Irish poet Patrick Pearce, who says, “The beauty of the world hath made me sad, This beauty that will pass.” In order to avoid the grief of the temporary, we have collectively chosen to not live in presence to the beauty around us.
Imagine arriving at the most joyful gathering of friends but knowing you will be leaving in a few hours, you keep your coat on, you don’t relax, you stay tense in your body and fast in your thoughts. You do not fully connect with the people or the place, you do not experience the exquisite bliss of human intimacy, taste the delicious food, dance the funny dances, or hear the beautiful music.
This is how most of us live. Can you see what a profound tragedy this is? How utterly heartbreaking this is?
We cannot fully exist, fully live, love, and offer our gifts to the world if unconsciously we are in dread of the moment of leaving. So we live a half-existence, characterized by ambivalence and fear.
Fear makes us contract against, pull away from, protect, wall off and defend. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, these are appropriate fear responses. These responses however are meant to be temporary measures which we can let go of when immediate threat is no longer an issue.
We are meant to return to a relaxed and easeful state but generally we do not because somewhere in our collective history the fear of death has become frozen in time and so we chronically self-protect. Fear of death has in fact become fear of life.
The truth is that we have nothing to fear in death. Death is love manifest. Death is an aspect of the Divine, another face of god. Death loves us and wants to bring us home to our essential formlessness. Death is not the end of us, it is simply the end of our human form.
I had the great privilege once of being with a friend’s mother as she took her final breaths. She was struggling for days and my friend confided that she was finding it too hard to let her mother go.
I spent some time at the bedside of this dying woman supporting my friend to feel the fullness of her grief and come to a place of acceptance. Then together we turned towards her mother, took one of her hands each, and I said, “You have done what you came here to do, you have done a beautiful job. You can go now. Everyone you love is okay. You can rest.” She breathed out and did not breath in again.
I felt her aliveness in that moment in a new way. She was more alive to me then than she had ever been before. The room filled with the luminosity of her Being. Her daughter and I continued to speak to her and feel her presence. We were both in a state of absolute awe and beauty.
We are all these immense luminous Beings. That is the truth of each one of us. The more we attune to our true nature and feel our own luminosity, the less we fear death because then we know deeply that we can never end, we can never stop existing. We can change, profoundly change, but we cannot cease to exist.
Our attempts to avoid death cause us great struggle, pain and suffering, worry, aggression and violence. But death is just a change of form, it is not an end. We are living in fear of an ending which is not possible.
The truth is, I am here now, in this world, in this form, there is pleasure and pain, beauty and ugliness, there is much to experience and great adventures to be had. And someday I will no longer be here in this human form and these particular adventures will no longer be for me.
Someday my body will no longer breathe and I will once again be without form, without this shape and structure, and no doubt there will be other experiences to have then.
That is all.
So let us just make the most of each moment, let us enjoy the adventures and feel the feelings and taste the food and dance the dances and do all the things that make us feel alive and engaged with this crazy world.
And above all else, let us love each other.
Gwen Mc Hale writes from an embodied place of depth and integrity. She is inspired by the nuances of her own process of healing, by her work as a somatic therapist and by daily encounters with the world she inhabits. Her work does not shy away from the dark, rather it calls in the light. Gwen lives in the West of Ireland with her daughter Rosie and a menagerie of dogs and cats.