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Making peace with loss and death

“Eternity is not the hereafter…this is it. If you don’t get it here, you won’t get it anywhere.” – Joseph Campbell

Finding inner peace in the midst of death and loss is a theme that runs through all our lives.

So I noted with interest the other day that suddenly death isn't the big gray Elephant in the Room no one likes to talk about.

"Death, be not shy: this is your TV moment," wrote Denver Post television writer Joanne Ostrow. "Just when you thought it was all about song and dance competitions, television seems obsessed with the big sleep."

After describing a variety of new shows dealing with death -- including a CBS program about a Florida hospice and an HBO movie starring Al Pacino as Dr. Jack Kevorkian -- Ostrow said in a recent column that death is "on the table” thanks in part to increased media treatment of what used be a too-scary topic.

She quoted Stewart Hoover, a media expert at the University of Colorado at Boulder: "There's so much else about life that the media have covered to death, like sex, that when you have a new aspect of experience that hasn't been covered, the media are glad to rush in."

Historically, in TV medical dramas, death was always there, Ostrow pointed out, but as the enemy. Now that is changing. It is sometimes treated as a more natural passage.

Finding inner peace

Want to find inner peace? Make peace with death.

There is a very simple way to do this.

Begin meeting death -- that is to say, loss -- right now in the little circumstances of your life.

You'll make a wonderful discovery. You can never lose the stillness and peace of your own being.

Happiness is already present within you

For a long long time -- as long as I can remember really -- I was quite sure that my destiny in life was to become a successful author.

It was a dream that was never far away from my thoughts.

I not only believed that becoming a successful author would make me happier and more fulfilled, I believed it was my God-given mission -- it was what life wanted to happen.

But then something changed.

It changed in a very drastic and absolute way.

The dream just vanished

I woke up one morning and realized that the dream I had carried with me for so long simply did not exist anymore. It had been replaced by something infinitely more precious -- a growing consciousness of who I truly am.

I didn't need to pursue that old dream anymore.

Actually, I did have some limited success as an author, for example writing a fable about integrity that was published the day after 9/11, and went on to be translated into 11 different languages.

But the truth is that what I thought was so important -- outer recognition as an author -- wasn't truly important at all. Or it was important only for awhile. It was a substitute, perhaps you could say, for the real thing.

And the real thing, as I say, was becoming more fully conscious of my own being.

Finding inner peace in Joy's passing

I said goodbye to Joy about 20 years ago.

We had been married for 25 years, and decided it would be a cool idea to go to the Caribbean to celebrate this time together. As we were flying back to Vancouver, Joy suffered a stroke and went into a coma.

When we reached Vancouver, she was rushed to hospital, where the doctor told me she had only hours to live.

I was sitting beside her bed, numb with shock, when she opened her eyes for a moment and looked at me. It seemed to me that she wanted to say something. I leaned over closer to her, and a single word whispered into the ether from her dry and parched lips.

"Home," she whispered. For a moment I was confused. Did she mean she wanted me to take her back to the little village 300 miles north of Vancouver that had been our home for so many years?

No, of course not. It took awhile for her word of blessing to really sink home in me, I was in such a state of shock. But she wanted me to know that all was well -- she was already on her way home to what author and teacher Dr. Wayne Dyer has called “the universal mind of intention.”

Wise words on death

In his book, The Power of Intention, Dr. Dyer makes the following timely and beautiful observation: "Essentially, there are two points of view regarding this dilemma of your own death.

"The first says that we’re physical bodies that are born and we go on to live for a while; and then ultimately we deteriorate, our flesh wears out, and then we die and are dead forever. This first perspective, if you embrace it either consciously or otherwise, is terrifying from our alive viewpoint.

"Unless you embrace the second point of view, it's completely understandable that you fear death. Or you may welcome it if you hate or fear life. The second point of view says very simply that you’re eternal, an infinite soul in a temporary expression of flesh. This second point of view says that only your physical body dies, that you were whole and perfect as you were created, and that your physicalness emanated from the universal mind of intention. That universal mind was and is formless -- it's the pure energy of love, beauty, kindness, and creativity, and it can’t die, since there's no form involved -- no form, no death, no boundaries, no deterioration, no flesh, no possibility of it wasting away."

An invitation 

Do you have some thoughts about this hitherto taboo area you’d like to share? Please feel free to write.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jarred December 12, 2010 at 10:51 am

Hello,
My name is Jarred, I’m from Australia and I’d love to respond to your story about Joy’s passing.

“Home”… Like Joy, we may as well totally accept in our hearts our eventual demise. To do otherwise and feel fear of death, is to me a denial of natural law, and a waste of time that potentially could have been spent alive in bliss. Life is a gift, and by extension also is death. For birth and life would not be possible without death.

I personally find it thrilling not just to accept my eventual death, but to even glorify and revel in it. Not in a crazed suicidal way; I would prefer to live as long as possible of course, but I mean it in a way that when it comes, like Joy, I’ll have accepted it totally in my heart and soul as my personal destiny. I’m also excited to eventually see what happens, or doesn’t happen, beyond death. Though the journey is still more important then our destination. Acceptance of our destination (death) can only enrich the journey there.

So you know of the story of Lord of the Rings? J R R Tolkien draws on this in his creation of the Elves in his stories. In his world of Middle-Earth, the Elves are gifted but sorrowful. You may already know, but they are sorrowful because of their loneliness and envy of man-kind and many other creatures. The Elves are eternal and their flesh, minds and soul will stay alive for thousands of years, immune from disease through their magical properties. Virtually the only way they can cease to be, is through physical violence done upon them. This seems like a gift?

However they live for so long that they feel somewhat bored and lifeless. They have a deep envy of man-kind’s mortality, because every moment and experience to man is a fleeting moment and experience. It could quite easily be man’s last; so there is a bitter-sweet and incredible beauty to every single second man is alive. The elves are deeply envious of this, and many vainly wish in their hearts for mortality; to feel what a man feels when he looks upon a glorious sunrise, to hold his lover in his arms, to indulge in a great feast, to look upon his growing children, etc, all the while knowing his time alive is limited. Beautiful just because it is limited.

Thank you for your thought-provoking story about Joy, she is truly a role-model for everyone. Bless her soul, and bless yours too. I enjoyed reading your words, and enjoy learning/sharing ideas with people about strong emotions and who we are. Thank you my friend! With the spirit of Joy on your side, go to life! To “Home”…

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Christopher Foster December 12, 2010 at 2:34 pm

I’m so thankful to you for your comment to this post Jarred. It’s a remarkable and beautiful comment. It pretty well leaves me speechless, to be honest, as you articulate so many truly fine thoughts on this subject that so often makes people feel uncomfortable — they want to sweep it under the table.

I’m delighted to have this moment of communion with you — as our lives in these particular human forms move inevitably from their beginning to their end. But we are not this human form. Thank you friend.

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