Death is like …

Death is unlike a fear of death: fear of death can end …

Death is like nothing, so your relationship to it is everything.

***

Death is unlike an end in sight; the mind creates death to give it a horizon. For those who lack multiperspectivity, horizons appear fixed and finite – death might seem little more than a fear of missing out.

Death is like the disintegration of a body; it’s truly expansive. As discreet bundles of energy we become less discreet, eventually transforming into cloud and ash, or food for worms and weeds. We become the dispersed, not the deceased. There is, as it were, always somewhere else to be, or not to be.

***

Death is unlike anything that’ll ever happen to you: death is not an event.

Death is like a re-evaluation of all values, making it possible to see how and why the idea of death came into being. With new perspectives, we give ourselves – and death – a new lease of life.

***

Death is unlike an unrealised future: death only exists in the present. Everything is in constant flux; death is but one drop in the River of Flux.

Death is like the split second before a profound loss dawns on you. There’s an eternity in that moment – it’s timeless – and yet gone in an instant. The greatest loss is not of the moment itself, but of who you are in that moment.

***

Death is unlike salvific prayer; there’s nothing to save since nothing can’t die. If redemption were needed, it might deliver us from the misguided vanity that insists on having a soul.

Death is like a black hole: a beautiful idea that can swallow you up. It’s not easily refuted – its existence is inferred.

***

Death is unlike getting touched up by a mortician as she applies a final bit of make-up. The mourners blush at their vanity; their loved one all made up with nowhere to go.

Death is like dreaming of a recently dispersed relative; death is simply not in their orbit. Unlike their loved ones, they’ve already moved on – showing no interest in current affairs; they’re now peacefully busy in the afterlife of your dream.

***

Death is unlike the psychedelic experience of losing your mind, unless of course you’ve stopped identifying with mind.

Death is like a psychedelic confrontation with death; as the shaman guides you into the underworld, you begin to realise it’s not an experience since there’s no one there to experience it.

***

Death is unlike the end of time: time doesn’t exist – death is timelessness. Time-bound perspectives result in a dislocated life; they lead to a belief in the false dichotomy of life and death.

Death is like Shrödinger’s Cat – a most perplexing paradox, and yet we all relate to its central question: is a life lived inside a box really living? To answer this you must first recognise the box you’ve created for yourself.

***

Death is unlike the biblical verse, ‘the wages of sin is death’, which is better read as, ‘the wages of a belief in sin are an unlived life’. Those who believe in sin secretly yearn for death, not because they long for paradise; rather, they’ve so devalued life that an end to it would be a relief.

Death is like the ego and the soul; they are the Emperor’s new clothes: beautiful ideas to adorn ourselves with. People believe they see them, and then behave as though they exist. With careful attention it’s possible to see there’s nothing there.

***

Death is unlike the pantomime of confession; the penitent and the priest exchange imaginary gifts with the same meaning and predictability as a dog returning to its vomit.

Death is like saying, ‘I’ve had enough, I can’t go on’; it’s only once you stop cleaving to the escapism of hope that you can learn to live in the present.

***

Death is unlike right and wrong, or good and evil; it is the end of dualistic thinking.

Death is like a dream: you’re convinced it’s real and that it’ll end when you wake up. Once you see that dreaming neither begins nor ends, you realise death is just another dream image you’ve dreamt up.

***

Death is unlike the road to hell paved with good intentions. Since good intent is a symptom of dis-ease, it’s better to favour ambivalence and kindness over good intention.

Death is like the exquisite moment of giving up a sacred belief; the mind tries to process it as loss since it can’t yet process it any other way.

***

Death is unlike the drama of life. Eternal life begins when you die to emotionality and drama, and yet despite your heart not being in it anymore, you nonetheless return to them. It’s no wonder so many continue seeking – they don’t realise eternal life has already begun.

Death is like it never happened; it is that tree falling in the forest when there’s no one there to witness it.

Glenn observes …

Death is a complete surrender to life – it is the end of an argument; it has nothing to do with winning, losing or agreeing to disagree.

All rights reserved © Copyright Glenn Nicholls 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author of this post is strictly prohibited.

Much love, your brother …

Portrait_002My younger sibling would be turning 50 this year. I wonder what would have been explored in the last half century had that sibling survived?

I think of what pleasures and pains would have been created if I had always had the youngster beneath me in the family. I wonder how my own life experience would have been altered by being the big brother?

As a four year-old, my rather large bedroom in the eaves of the house I grew up in was ready to be divided for the coming of the newest member of our household. I clearly remember how my parents began to manipulate my thinking in preparation for the commencement of the building works. It was ‘going to be fun’ having a smaller room. I’d ‘get to choose my own bedspread’ – I’d even be allowed one that represented the cockpit of a racing car, if I’d ‘just give up [my] protests, see sense and take a positive view’. Of course, being four, I didn’t really understand what was going on and I certainly didn’t understand why my older sister was getting to keep a room of her own with all of her stuff and things in it. There would be no consequence of reduced space for her. I was very resistant and, although I say it myself, rightly so!

Skip forward a few months and a different message was circulating in my life. Unseen, but not unfelt by me, my mother had lost the baby that was due in the family. Suddenly my peace was being shattered by another direct assault on my space: apparently there was someone already in existence who might be coming to share my room. The audacity! An adopted child – whatever that meant. We were now expecting a cuckoo!

As it happens, the cuckoo-child never arrived. But as time followed on I was next introduced to the idea of emigration to Australia, where we would all ‘get new lives’.

The changes seemed to mount and I really didn’t like all of this unsettled social soup that we were living in. Most noticeably, my mother’s health began to deteriorate – her body quietly rejecting something. Loss in her was transformed into chronic painful illness. By the time a full seven years had passed from the loss of the child we were finally moving – but it wasn’t across the globe. Leading up to this move, the basement of our house, which my ‘aunt’ lived in, was converted into a self-contained flat. A new bathroom was created on the ground floor, and then the three upper floors that had been my family home were split  to form yet more self-contained properties. My ‘aunt’, a casualty of this change, moved out. It was a personal loss.

On the day before the morning I started secondary school we moved to a small house away from my friends. It seemed that for seven years one loss became another. Loss transformed until it couldn’t be clearly seen what was actually missing anymore.

Imaginations and dreams gave way to decomposition as I watched my father retreat into what I would later realise was depression. My once-safe comforting mother had, by then, almost totally dissolved into pain and anger. When both my parents were in their final phases of life I dared to fully and directly bring up the loss of the youngest member of our family – but it was ‘too late’, too hidden, ‘hardly remembered’ they said. My child that had sought the adult answers continued to be denied the required explanations, but therapy helped give the events a narrative by which to understand the family loss, pain, anxiety and depression.

Having permanently returned to my home city this year, the ‘golden’ anniversary of all that loss, I allow myself to wonder what different path there might have been if that younger sibling of mine had made it though. RIP Little One.

Much love,

Your brother

Duncan challenges you to …

… reach out to a sibling whatever your shared history.

 

All rights reserved © Copyright Duncan E. Stafford 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author of this post is strictly prohibited.

Dying twice

Portrait_002This year, and for the first time, the anniversary of my father’s death some years ago passed by without me remembering …

It had been a short drive to the nursing home my father had moved to eight days previously. My wife and I had been his primary carers for close to a decade but when, fourteen weeks earlier, he had fallen and broken his hip, his move away from his home and into the healthcare system sparked in him a serious decline. There was also a touch of guilt at the freedoms his move was affording to us.

As we neared the care home, an ambulance on an emergency call passed us. A minute later we drew up behind it and a paramedic vehicle already parked at the home. My wife said to me, ‘It’s for your father.’ I winced; I felt her to be right.

As we strode down the corridor of the second floor suite in which my father had taken residency, a member of staff addressed us: ‘Are you here to see Brian?’

‘Yes,’ we both smiled.

There was already a temporal shift occurring – odd, I thought, no one has addressed us in such a way before. A nurse blocked our path to my father’s room: ‘You’re Brian’s relatives?’ Somehow, in a moment, we were all in her office. My wife looked pale: ‘You’d better sit down Mrs Stafford.’ But there was a dreadful tension and confusion in the space. With my psychotherapist’s hat on I honed in on the emotion – there was huge anxiety being broadcast from this experienced nurse. After a few words she left us saying, ‘I’ll just check on your father’s condition.’ It hit my wife and me at the same moment and we rushed along the corridor.

Bundling into my father’s room we saw a paramedic ‘shouting’ at the prone and half naked figure: ‘Come on Brian … stay with us.’ My father’s chest heaved in physical distress as a bag covered his mouth and another medic prepared to shock him. His skin had the waxy hue and paleness I’d seen on my mother as she passed away.

In the small living space that had become my father’s whole world the paraphernalia of modern emergency support was strewn all around. My wife was first to enunciate her horror: ‘What are you doing this for?!’

For several weeks in three separate medical establishments my father, despite his communication difficulties caused by a stroke some years earlier, had made himself understood – he wanted to die. For the long years before he broke his hip my wife and I had cared for my father, it had been difficult to watch his almost daily decline; he had been a proud, principled and independent man, a teacher and an artist. At eighty, long overdue, he become a published poet. Difficult as it was to watch, we respected that this was a man fading out at his own request. And yet here we were, thrust into the most terrible of moments – a man who wanted to die being forced back into a world he no longer had an interest in. Our protestations that my father be allowed to pass away brought yet more tension into the room. The ‘shouting’ stopped, but our fourteen weeks of frustrations at the NHS care system were too much for me and my wife.

In counterpoint we made our cases aloud to the six medics about respect and civilised treatment. But apparently, my father’s DNR (do not resuscitate) wishes had not been recorded in the requisite manner. Procedure and regulation were in the way of care and welfare, and overrode my father’s desires.

For his entire adult life, my father voted for a system that respected people, treated them well; a welfare state, a national health service, free at the point of need – one of the marks of a civilised and mature society. Those entrusted to administer NHS continuing healthcare had already attempted piracy with his rights and, now, these paramedics were clearly having to apply procedure rather than the human care they so obviously wished to dispense.

My father was being denied his wish to die peacefully and with respect. This was a system seeking to revive him so that it might take him back to a hospital he had already refused to be taken to, in order that he could ‘die’ once more, probably on a trolly in a corridor in A&E.

Before all was lost, the senior paramedic took control and through several different stages and conversations that involved myself and my father’s GP the paramedics were allowed to ‘withdraw’. And then the room was quiet and my father once more calm. His beloved Radio could be heard in the corner of his room and death once more began to claim his body. Peacefully and with us as comforters for his passage he was able to complete his life, with respect and dignity.

Duncan suggests …

… reading the book ‘Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death‘ by Irvine D. Yalom,

 

All rights reserved © Copyright Duncan E. Stafford 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author of this post is strictly prohibited.