Monday, January 17, 2011
Jumping in Spite of the Fear
Last week, I was with a very close friend of mine and we were discussing our last lunch together, in which she had admitted a near-paralyzing fear of death. This is a vibrant, easy-to-laugh, easier-to-love woman. She has kids and a loving husband and two very-much-alive parents. She has more friends who would take a bullet for her than our president does. She exudes LIFE - all caps - and is the person I go to when I have fears and troubles in my life.
And so, at the first lunch, I'm sure I was talking about Max or Isaac... I do that a lot, as you know... and I'm sure that I must have allowed a few tears to drip down my cheeks... I do that quite often, too. But my feelings on death have changed dramatically and I have begun to accept it as a part of life, just as important as birth.
At some point, I looked up and my friend was crying. She is always empathetic and compassionate, and we joke that all it takes is a kid singing to make us cry happy tears, but this was very different. She was shaking and could barely talk, but when she did choke out a few words, she was extremely emotional about her fear of dying and leaving behind the people that she loves so dearly, as well as any of them leaving her too early.
As I mentioned, this is someone who I may have pegged as a "life is life, what can you do?" sort of person. But this fear -- the unknown of death -- had gripped her so hard that the mere thought of death or dying was too difficult to even imagine. The best I could do was sit with her, listen, breathe along, be grateful for the moment together, hope for many more.
What I'm learning, in talking to her and many more friends who have shared this same fear of death, is just how common it is for us to be attached to and enmeshed in our mortal coils. I have to admit, I'm damn lucky and I thank Rafael and the skies and earth and moon and sun every day for the life I've got. But what I've felt since the deaths of these people who were so close to me -- and this includes Max, Isaac, three of my grandparents and a very good childhood friend who passed away when we were 15 -- is that the LOVE that we all carry doesn't end. Maybe it's the "energy" that mediums talk about or the dreams that are inhabited by these loved ones, but although they've died and shed their physical beings, they still "live" on.
I described it to my friend as feeling like there's a huge -- imagine my arms out wide like a child trying to throw her arms around the world -- blanket or jacket enveloping me, loving me as I go about my day. No judgment or negative voices, just a beaming light of love warming me. In our old house, I had the distinct feeling of my father-in-law happily "haunting" the upstairs - not jangling chains or knocking stuff over, but proudly watching, hanging out from time to time, checking in on us. It didn't feel creepy or weird, just... loving.
Rather consistently, Raf has had dreams in which he's sitting at his dad's beach house, just hanging out and talking sports with his dad and brother. Sort of the after-death lounge. Previously, even though I'd often had similar dreams in which I'm sitting with my grandmother in her Covina kitchen, I would have said it was our very optimistic unconscious, helping us ease the pain. But now... I'm not sure that it's not the energy of the deceased coming back to check in on us. And, if I'm wrong, I won't know the truth until I'm no longer on the earth. So this is what I'll choose to believe.
The saddest thing, I suppose, is our very human lack of control over nature. We think we can control our "lives" in the same way that we "control" aging with Botox and fitness... but it's artificial. Bad things happen to good people. And good things happen to good people. But we will all experience death at some point - or points - in our lives. I wish I could encourage you to embrace that fact... and have gratitude for the awareness... but the sad fact is that none of us can truly feel the love of life after death until a death has happened. And that love keeps me going, and keeps me *living* to the fullest, even though I have no control over what may happen next.
There's no easy way to end this post of rambling, so I will reiterate the title:
Jump in, in spite of the fear.