Not everyone is ready to talk with you about dying. We have to honor all of our individual differences. Years ago my father was about to have a minor surgery, and the night before, I visited him in the hospital. No operation is minor when you’re eighty years old. We had a nice visit. I had my jacket on, and I was halfway out the door when Dad called me back.
“Just in case things go wrong, is there anything I should know?” he asked.
I went back to his bedside and said, “All I can tell you is, as good as this is, that is going to be better. And wherever you go, I’ll be there.”
Dad said, “Great, that’s all I wanted to know. See you later.”
For many of us, the thought of death, thinking of when we or someone we love is going to die, keeps us from being here now. When will we die? How will we die? What will happen after we die? What will happen to our loved ones? What about all the things we hoped to accomplish? These deep fears and anxieties about our survival keep us from living fully in the present moment.
Most of us are convinced that we are our egos, which is who we think we are. The ego is part of our incarnation. It dies with the body, which is why we are so afraid of death. Death scares the hell out of who you think you are, especially if you think you are this body. Being around death forces you to open to a deeper part of yourself. The shadow, especially the shadow of death, is the greatest teacher for how to come to the light.
Don’t prolong the past,
Don’t invite the future,
Don’t alter your innate wakefulness,
Don’t fear appearances,
There’s nothing more than that!
– Patrul Rinpoche
When you are fully present in the moment, there is no anticipatory fear, no anxiety, because you are just here and now, not in the future. When we are resting in our souls, death is just closing a chapter in a book.
– Ram Dass
Photography by Jeremiah Goodman