Death and dying

How do you view your own death? I was impressed by this delivery on the subject of death by Steven Jenkinson, ceremonialist and author of the book “Die Wise” (2015). He talks about how as a culture there is death phobia and that there is poor grief literacy. “That people’s right to die badly is routinely defended.” It touched on something that has long made me uneasy: this relentless quest to “not die,” to prolong life no matter how poor the quality of that life is, a denying of dying. Jenkinson invites his audience into a different relationship with dying. He talks of “dying well” as a responsibility to our ancestors and our heirs.

I shall be open now to making death my trusty companion, a daily reminder of my mortality, so that perhaps I might seize the day more fully. Embracing mortality is well supported by the spiritual traditions and some measure spiritual development by how welcome death is to the individual. In the “Book of Joy,” the Dalai Lama describes how he practices a meditation five times a day that takes him through death and rebirth and reminds the reader how “it is the nature of all things that come into existence to have an end.”

And of course, symbolically, without death, there cannot be something new. In “The Mythic Tarot” written by Juliet Sharman-Burke and Liz Green with cards illustrated by Tricia Newell, Death is a black figure in a cloak, a symbol of the experience of mourning and the necessity to prepare for a new cycle. “… Death, represents that in-between state where we are brought face to face with the complete irrevocability of our loss, before the sense of new growth has begun.” In the image, the figure of Death receives gifts from tiny people, these are the seeds that will grow in the new dawn on the horizon, on the other side of the river.

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