HOW DO YOU WANT TO DIE?

HOW DO YOU WANT TO DIE?

Sometimes
my living
and my
dying
get all mixed up.

Sometimes I ask myself
“How do I prefer to die….
Sooner? Later?
Here? There?”

These fantasies and realities
of living and dying
become more poignant
more pressing,
more precious,
more necessary,
as I pass my years.

I have two choices:
to ignore it
(“and get on with my life”)
…. or confront it
(and actually hallow my reality).

I made the latter
choice some years ago,
while reading
Old Age
by my mentor, Helen Luke.

Now,
I am just beginning
to see
my own
dying and death
as normal
and inevitable
and very worthwhile
for me.

My, how aging mellows things!
Well,
I cannot escape it,
that’s for sure!

While in the depths
of a relentless ten-year
dark night of my soul
era
I awakened one night
sweating and
in deepest anguish
as I heard myself
saying aloud,
“I want to die
before morning comes;
The pain of my
existence is
simply too heavy
to bear.”

Looking back,
nearly three decades later,
I would not trade
those long hellish nights
of inner dying
for anything in the world.

A nighty purgatory of
psychic pain
swept through
my spirit
with blessed
mid-life agony
generated by a
much deserved
splitness.

I saw no way through
or out.
At times I thought I
would lose my mind.
I didn’t.
In fact, I now look back
and see that I needed
to die
so I could
eventually live.
I chose to grow
through my darkness
and to change,
rather than atrophy.

God’s
soul furnace
burned deeply
into my bones
and mysteriously,
eventually,
gradually,
painfully,
prepared me
to awaken
into what now is
the most
lively and exciting
period of my life.

Those dark nights
taught me how
psychic
pain and suffering
can
be the liberating catalyst
in a demanding
process
of purification.

This sort of
inner dying
proved to be the way
that taught me
how to find and face
my own Depths
and all its implications.

I needed that mentoring,
because I live
in a culture
that understands so very little
about
loving non-attachment,
dying, and death.

My culture denies
the gift and
the centrality of dying and death.
I was taught
that death is
a gloomy interruption
to my twin illusions—
that I cannot be fully alive
and,
at the same time,
look my death in the face,
or—
that dying will be this
Grand Escape
from this world of sin
so I can forever bask in
heaven’s eternal happiness
with no more tears
or pain
or suffering.

Why,
to discuss death
and dying,
and afterlife,
with any serious interest
would be
a morbid waste of time;
our technology,
our theology,
our social status
simply cannot handle it.

So we laugh it off,
or rush around it;
we have not yet realized
the disastrous results
of our denial of death,
Our fear of death.

Jessica Mitford,
J K Rowling’s heroine,
exposed our extravagant
funeral manipulations
in
The American Way of Death.

Ernest Becker’s
Denial of Death
uncovered our elaborate
defense mechanisms
against
our mortality.

The Tibetan Book
of Living and Dying
takes away
the intense fear
of death
and makes it
seem like an old
friend.

So, where am I
in these “golden”
years
as I confront
my own fear
and trust
with this old friend?

I have often asked myself
how I prefer to die–
planting my tomatoes?
fishing?
in my sleep?
after my grandkids all graduate and marry?
at home, not in the hospital?
in the arms of a loved one?

I remember holding my
limp and dying
mother
in my arms
her final moments.
Consciously absent,
and unconsciously present,
she invited me into
the relinquished depths
of her very soul
just before she passed.
No words were necessary;
her eyes spoke volumes
overflowing my eyes
with tears.
Her’s was a
beautiful death
as the morphine
finally released
her pain and
her heart.

I gently closed her
absent eyes
and kissed
her
lifeless cheeks.

And so, I ask myself
how do I prefer to die….
Sooner? Later?
Here? There?

And I hear myself saying,
“It does not matter.”

With pain or without pain?
It does not matter.

Today, tonight or twenty five years hence?
It does not matter.

In the bed I was conceived and born in
at home?
or
In the hospital? (God forbid?!)
Finally, it does not matter!!

I have a hunch
that my way of dying
will be as synchronistic
as my way of living.
With or without pain,
today, or on my 93rd birthday,
tending my tomatoes, or
walking some lonely pathway,
or
in the arms of loving companions–
It does not matter.

While sitting up all night
for nine days
In ICU with
my father
when he thought
he was going to die
we had precious and powerful
sharing times.
We laughed, we cried;
he said,
“Son, you know what I dread
most about dying?”
and I responded,
“Tell me, Pop,”
and he said,
“I don’t want to leave
the people I love so much.”
He said,
“I hope God can
forgive me.”

I just listened
before I said,
“Oh yes, Daddy, for sure,
God does forgive us all,”
and I rubbed his tired body
and he relaxed,
breathing deeply,
falling back into
restful
sleep.

-Hal Edwards
Wauconda, May 3, 2010

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