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August 28, 2011

I suppose that a blog about one’s journey home would not be complete without a discussion about death, eh? Yes, I did promise to keep this blog from being morbid … but then I don’t think death is morbid at all … quite the contrary. So as a freshly “certified” dying guy, let me see if I can take a little of the morbidity out of death if I can. Deal?

It’s funny that something which happens around 160,000 times a day, and has happened a hundred billion times since our species began, and something we will all inevitably encounter at some point in our lives, should still have so much fear and trepidation associated with it. Yet it does. And this fear is natural, because it’s natural for us to fear the unknown; and what lies on the other side of the thin veil between lives is … well … unknown. But there is probably more to it than that, so lets pull at a few loose strings and try to tear the fabric of this mystery apart a bit and see a little of what lies within, Okay?

Of course, I don’t claim to have any expert knowledge, nor have I received any research grants to study this subject. Shoot … I would only waste the money! I only have the experience of my life to help me interpret the experience of my impending death. Not much to offer, I suppose, but it’s all I have for you. Maybe it will even be useful.

When my hospice counselor was here the other day, he informed me that people don’t realize how much has happened medically in even the last 20 or 25 years. We are at a point in medial technology where no one needs to die in pain and misery anymore (unless, of course, one doesn’t have access to good medical care … but this is a sad subject for another time). Most of us don’t realize this, I think, … I didn’t. I was still counting on that ol misery to kick in pretty soon. Apparently those days are nearly over. I suppose there are exceptions, and there is still some tweaking necessary, but a lot of the pain of illness and death should now be unnecessary … okay … in theory anyway.

When my mom was still alive but not doing so well, I asked her if she was afraid of death. She assured me that she wasn’t, but did admit that she was afraid of dying. She was afraid of the memory of loved one’s dying a painful death. Fortunately, by the time mom did die, she didn’t suffer with pain because it was during the time of this modern miracle. Yet, many of us, maybe most of us still think that death will be a painful proposition.

Going back a little further … well, a lot further … humans lived in a very vulnerable state. Without the benefit of technology we were simply animals, and so we had to live in an animal reality. One of these realities is that you eat or be eaten. This was a time when few died from old age because there just wasn’t time. As soon as you showed signs of having a bad day, you became eaten. Now there is a frightening reality for you. So this is a terrifying memory to carry with us from somewhere in our primitive brain, and may have some effect on our attitude about death to this day.

Third, I suppose there might still be fear in some that when they die they might not go to that “good” place up in the sky, but to that … hmmmm …  well, blistery place down in the core of the Earth or some such hot spot. There is really nothing I can say to allay the fears of people with this belief except to say that I believe without a single ounce of doubt anywhere in my entire being that this place can only exist in one’s mind. The worst person in the world will still be received in love when they leave this physical place. It doesn’t mean that they will not carry the burden of their actions with them wherever they go from here, but they will still have a chance to work that burden off and learn what love really means. How do I know this? I don’t … except that I do! I know it in my heart but I can’t prove it to another single soul … knowing this is the personal work we must all do in our lives.

So, do I have any fears about death? Well, yes I do. I’m NOT afraid of the mystery, I’m NOT afraid of the pain (well, mostly not), I’m NOT afraid of being dinner, and I’m certainly NOT afraid of the big barbecue, because my own brand of faith assures me that all is well and always will be.

But I AM afraid of what I will be leaving behind … the letting go of what I know, and the surrendering to what I don’t. These are my tasks right now and I want to do them with the upmost attention and awareness as long as this body will bless me with the ability to do so.

I AM afraid of leaving because this is the only life this particular body has known, you are the only people this particular heart has loved, this is the only Earth this particular mind has beheld, and this is the only body that this particular personality has been contained within, and I am leaving all this for a journey of unknown proportions … and going there without all that I have known and loved. I do believe this new land is going to welcome me, so I am not afraid of the going, but I AM sad about the leaving. And this is what my grief entails: the letting go of what I know, and the surrendering to what I don’t.

But  in my good moments, I am comforted in love. I believe that what I have with, and feel for, Peg will follow me, even if she can’t. And I try and feel comforted in my belief that she will carry what she has, and feels for me, even if she can’t go with me on this new journey. I am comforted in love because this I believe is what transcends all endings and what creates all new beginnings. This is the friend we walk with through eternity, so the best thing from my point of view is to get to know this friend as deeply as possible so we never need fear of being alone again.


12 Comments leave one →
  1. MikeL permalink*
    August 30, 2011 9:20 pm

    As you know, Rick, and as we’ve discussed, I am as agnostic about the mysteries that surround our lives as you are–or as you were, because I’ve seen a very real change in your outlook on such matters in the course of reading your blog. And, in truth, I envy your new confidence in the reality of Spirit.

    That said, I’ve held a few things I’ve learned over the years as kind of good luck charms for my cognitive brain ever in the sway of rational materialism. These ideas, found within Tibetan Buddhist, concern reincarnation and the idea that we have all lived lives with each other again and again. This notion tickles my brain with a kind of truth that seems more than just wishful thinking.

    That I may have been the mother and father of my daughters many times, and who themselves have been my own mothers and fathers, daughters and sons time and time again helps explain the immense love I feel for them. And just as you, Rick, have been my mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters as I have been yours over the eons not only fascinates and bewilders, but also means that the end of one’s life is not the finale of our existence, but merely an interlude between acts. And like a play, the characters we grow closest to–those eternal threads of consciousness–keep evolving, changing, mutating and undulating through time and through all the many acts of our many lives. And they do this because the consciousness that we can’t pin down as being anything other than a pure epiphenomenon of life remains eternal.

    So as I watch the best ideas of religion and spirituality throughout the world become adulterated by the foibles and weaknesses of our still-evolving species, these few simple ideas of one religious tradition give me hope that this great adventure we call life is not simply an exercise in futility and a fulfillment of our biological imperative to pass on our genetic material, but is actually a chapter in an eternal dance that we celebrate with many others who for one reason or another have become everlastingly important in our lives.

    I’ve no doubt that Peg is a consciousness you’ve experienced over and over again, Rick…and will experience again and again throughout eternity.

    Is there a better explanation of something as enigmatic as Love?

    • August 31, 2011 6:52 am

      So well explained, Mike. Thank you. Like you, I don’t know the details, but I do know that it all makes perfect sense and in that way there is nothing to fear. I am drawn to the Buddhist notion of reality as you are because I too am moved by both the cognitive logic of it as well as the spiritual reasonableness of it. I think many people are finding themselves attracted to this “reasoned” perspective of spirituality that doesn’t attempt to separate our physical reality from our spiritual one. How needed this is in our world today.

  2. August 30, 2011 8:57 pm

    Thanks for talking about the “d” word. The more people are willing to do what you are doing, the less fearful we will be, even if it’s only that in sharing our fears we take the power out of them.

    Sometimes I think of death as a relief from the cares of living, completion, going home, a place where no one can call me and ask me to join a committee or go to a meeting…;-)

    Then i think about not being able to communicate with those I love, tell THEM to go to a meeting or join a committee… Ahh– but that’s an assumption that may not be true. I think my mother and my daughter have communicated to me from the other side, I just wish I were better able to tell when they did so I could say “thank you” and “I love you” more often.


  3. August 29, 2011 10:39 pm

    oh, your post reminds me of a poem I wrote about dying. Might be kind of what you are saying, but in a different way?

  4. Jo Stothard permalink
    August 29, 2011 3:06 pm

    Ok, so now you have transformed from a “certified ” dying guy to a “LOVE BALL” !!! I like it.

    Glad to know that you are surrounded by caring people in your community and family.

    You will never be alone.

  5. Anna Rodriguez permalink
    August 29, 2011 1:55 pm

    Wow, I have always told Greg that I am not afraid of dying, but that I am afraid of he or Odin dying before me. The basic fear is then of being alone. Thank you for your wonderful reminder that love knows no boundaries and that it can guide us always and to remember that we really are never alone. Blessings on your journey and feel the love.

  6. August 29, 2011 10:19 am

    Again, supremely eloquent, my friend. Thoughtful and cogent as well. I, too, wonder about the mystery and I,too, am not particularly afraid of it. And I am supremely curious about what happens after we leave the body. To this end, I am bringing two books to the Integrity Circle tomorrow that you will like; they are Michael Newton, PhD…….. DESTINY OF SOULS AND JOURNEY OF SOULS. He is a hypnotherapist and has hypnotized many people to find out what happens between incarnations….fascinating!

    See you tomorrow!


    • August 29, 2011 11:21 am

      tell ya what, David … I’ll send you an enneagram from the other side and give you a personality report.

  7. August 29, 2011 9:00 am

    Dear Rick,

    I’m really glad I got to meet you at the family reunion. That day really changed my life and my outlook on my family, from whom I’d been pretty isolated for a long time. You and all the LaMartinas are such wonderful, kind people, exactly the kind of people I want to be related to and call cousins.

    I am impressed by your courage, your strength, and how boldly you stride forth to contemplate something that I am terrified of. I never had any sort of religion in my life and never had an answer beyond atheism. Every time someone close to me has turned and gone, as they say in Korean, I have been terribly sad. But the love of your family and your friends is as eternal as the universe is vast, that I am sure of.

    Thanks for being so strong.

  8. Lauren permalink
    August 29, 2011 7:17 am

    i am getting a little teary now, Rick, reading this and your last post. Your words touch me. I don’t know what else to say, but wanted you to know I am reading.

  9. Jane permalink
    August 29, 2011 7:03 am

    Beautiful Rick, just beautiful. I love envisioning you as walking LOVE as you journey on and Peg surrounded by all of our LOVE plus yours as her life goes on. And this keeps continuing for all of us and soon this walking love of yours keeps moving and picking up more LOVE and than there is this HUMONGOUS BALL OF LOVE that keeps rolling , keeps moving and adds more LOVE to it every single day. The best part is that it never gets too big, nor does it ever leave any one out of it’s path….no one will ever be lonely with a world full to the top with LOVE. I guess I am thinking this morning of you as a LOVE BALL!

    • August 29, 2011 8:51 am

      Wow, Jane … I think you got it … and I love your metaphor … very creative. Thanks for commenting on this and for you. I miss seeing you and hope you are doing well yourself.

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