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What sense does it make to take death as a personal affront when no one…NO ONE…is excused? Hence we have upbeat depictions such as the Mexican celebration of the ancestors Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), the new Disney film COCO, and even the colorful passing of summer into bare winter.
To me, death is like growing up. No matter how fervently you wish you could cling to childhood when life seemed simple—eat, play, sleep, and love—eventually your body morphs you into a being that has responsibilities and serious choices. Perhaps we would be better off to remember the importance of eat, play, sleep, and love past puberty. We believe adulthood descends as a heavy mantle, mandating grindstone and competition, and we make it so. Likewise, death comes whether you want it or not, whether you’re ready or not. TIME’S UP! What death looks like to you depends on how you choose to see it.
I’m one of the many who are periodically reminded of mortality. For some six years my doctors have been warning me that any day I will not wake up. Because departing quietly in sleep seems like a nice choice—since I have to go some way—I agree with the research that says people are more afraid of the process of dying than they are of being dead. I strongly suspect even my unpredictable heart may not zip me off as neatly as my warnings portend. What if I must linger in a painful, incapacitated state? NO! No one looks forward to an ugly or slow death—especially people like me who hate to be bored or helpless. I find it worthwhile to stay active, eat well, and practice kindness in the hope that I’ll wear out—not early, just on time. At least dying isn’t a permanent condition.
But being jerked away from my loved ones isn’t an attractive proposition, even if I’m promised to see them again. Some tell me I can look forward to another existence in which I play, love, and learn until or unless I choose to come back to work through my soul assignments again. Okay, that doesn’t seem too bad. Of course, I’m told that first each soul must endure an educational life review in which he or she experiences all the emotions he or she ever caused others to feel. That sounds painful. Who truly has zero regrets when it comes to relationships? I’ve been careless and inadvertently cruel, I know. I asked for my comeuppance. I can understand why some people fear that review.
As much as many would like to believe the afterlife is sorted into tidy camps like clubs with memberships, I ascribe to the theory that human souls return to knowing how much we, even as individuals, are essentially the same. Nobody is perfect and everyone has growing to do. After all, the foundations of the major religions have much in common, and human needs are universal. The lines between us are drawn by the living for the convenience of those who desire power. Darkness perverts what we are. I take mean satisfaction in theories that the irretrievably evil are eventually returned to primordial levels to begin soul-building anew. Happily, in my envisioning, there is no hopelessness.
Cynics enjoy mocking those who champion the power of loving. But in the middle of the night when we’re alone with our thoughts, we can feel the truth. Death loses its fearsomeness when we are loved. Love travels with us and gives us courage. Death reminds us to get busy living. We’ll have to grow up soon enough.