Thursday, December 27, 2012

Life Death Life Cycle

Caitlin Doughty is a Los Angeles, CA. mortician and a writer who started The Order of The Good Death in 2011. I heard an interview with her on CBC radio for a second time. The first time I didn't listen as intently as I did on this occasion. Why I paid close attention today was because a close friend's brother-in-law died just a few days prior to Christmas. I came to the realization that I think deeply at Christmas about those that we love and loose to death, under very difficult and painful circumstances, that perhaps we can ever imagine.

Amidst the Christmas festivity, and celebration of the birth of the Christ Child,  present to me, is a pervading sense and reminder of death. This may sound morbid, but I have come to realize this is all part and parcel of  cycle of life. It is what Jungian analyst, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola  refers to, in the story about Skeleton Woman, as being  the life-death-life cycle.  There is life after death I believe. I am not just talking about Heaven or the after life, but the kind of life we choose to live when we can face our fears surrounding death, confronting and accepting our mortality.

 I am someone who has personally experienced a lot of death with the loss of a husband at the young age of 27, loosing my mother in 1995, after one year of sobriety, and then ten years later loosing my father and my older brother within two months of one another. In considering what I have lost and what I have gained, I am amazed and so grateful to be able to celebrate on January 2nd, 2013, nineteen years of contented sobriety.

The death of my loved ones has given me an appreciation for life and a wisdom that I would never have otherwise. I learned many hard lessons from death and continue to do so. What I have gleaned from these lessons, I have to share, pay it forward, in hopes of perhaps helping another, the way others have so generously helped me.

I remember many years ago reading, Love and Will by Rollo May. He makes some profound statements that have long resonated with me, about the relationship between Love and Death. This is clarified for me is his quotation from  a letter written by Abraham Maslow, who was recuperating from a heart attack.

" The confrontation with death-and the reprieve from it-makes everything look so precious, so sacred, so beautiful that I feel more strongly than ever the impulse to love it. My river has never looked so beautiful....Death, and its ever present possibility makes love, passionate love, more possible. I wonder if we could love passionately, if ecstasy would be possible at all, if we knew we'd never die."
"Death is always in the shadow of the delight of love."

He speaks as well of the other side of the death and love relationship.

 " The obsession with sex serves to cover up contemporary man's fear of death."

At one time death was not so much at arms length as it is today in the twenty first century, much to our own detriment.

When I first came to the realization I am somewhat preoccupied with contemplating thoughts about death, especially around this time of year, at Christmas, I didn't really want to admit this to myself. However today, after closely and intently listening and reading what Caitlin Doughty has to say, I can  better embrace my thoughts and feelings about death and mortality. I now understand  and know this is healthy and normal considering what my life experience has been.

Caitlin says, "Many of us have thoughts of death, but we don't see them to the end. We get stuck in the loops, reliving the scary part over and over but never the resolution."


Betsy Grant said...

Someone once said something to the effect of "I die daily" - referring to a daily inner death to that which in reality has no lasting life. It was a reminder to place our attention on that which is immortal and divine. I want to say it was St. Paul who said this, but am not sure. In any case the quotation has merit.

Unknown said...

Thank you for that Betsy. Yes I have heard that before I am not certain you said it either. Does sound like Saint Paul.

Indigene said...

I often have the same thoughts at the end of the year; a poignant reminder that things end and things begin with or without me. Life will go on whether I am participating or not...there is something final and frightening about that concept.

I too, have endured major losses just in the last year and it has made me more determined to try and live to the fullest and appreciate what I have. It is hard but I think that living is our way of trying to.

Thank you for sharing yourself, and letting us all know we are not alone in these thoughts...that's important...we are not alone.

Unknown said...

Thank you Indigene for saying this. All too often we think we are alone. I think often because we don't share what it is we are thinking and feeling, for what ever the reasons. When we do, we find out, we aren't alone. And instead of just me, it's we.