Some people will skip this post because of the title.
A friend of ours died this week. It was not a surprise; it was a long, nasty, painful, wasting death from cancer. The end was a blessing.
It is not death that is disturbing to me, it is the dying.
Is there some continuity for our existence after death? Let us be clear. We do not know. Pretending to know is a sin.
There have been dozens of books written by authors who have interviewed people who supposedly died and came back to report that they had entered into a white light and met the friends and family who had gone before them. As the Dalai Lama noted, there is only one problem with these reports. None of these people had actually died. They had a bright light with friends experience. Dead is dead.
There are two observations I can make about the dead that have never left me. One is that seeing the dead body of someone you knew in life is a shock because they are suddenly so obviously not the person you knew. They are fundamentally unrecognizable. Something very palpable is missing. What is that? Where did it go?
Second, I have the continuing sense that all living things leave an impression that survives when they are gone. I do not mean a subjective impression in my mind or heart. I mean that there is a sense of their essence continuing…a uniqueness of theirs that persists…imprinted in space?…as though their physical nature was simply an expression of this something else which existed before and exists after their life. Exists where or how? I do not know.
All of this leads me to think that it is good to continue to communicate with the departed in our thoughts and feelings. It may be useful to them. It may be useful to us.
One thing is certain. Most of us would never, ever get sober or wake up without a connection to death, ours or someone else’s. Encountering death is the best chance most of us get to make a real change.