I read Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, No Death, No Fear: Comforting Wisdom for Life
5 years ago.
I got some of it. No, I got a lot of it. But I just couldn’t get how I could face death and not be afraid. Not my death but the deaths of my parents, the deaths of my brothers, Mike and Bob.
I mourned like everyone does. Crying, missing them, wishing they hadn’t died, regretting the loss of time — time I should have spent with them when they were alive. I beat myself up for lost opportunities to tell them how much they meant to me, how much I would miss them. I’ve lived the last 35 years with regret.
I believed what Joseph Campbell wrote in one of his most widely known works, The Power of Myth. “All life is loss, loss, loss.”
The loss of my parents and brothers was devastating at an almost cellular level. But here, this morning, in the cool aftermath of violent thunderstorms, I felt something else, some small pull to another view of loss.
In that instant, everything changed. I learned how time works.
It always seemed to move too fast for me. This morning I discovered that time is neither fast nor slow. It’s almost opaque. The word “linear” no longer applies. It is as though we are wandering through it. Past, present and future are all there, in the same moment, even when we don’t recognize them.
When I try to analyze this new relationship with time (having it, losing it, wasting it), I get anxious. If I just let go, everything I ever thought I knew about time dissolves.
Each moment feels rich, full, amazing. Listening to crickets chirp now as they always have and always will. Watching geese gathering now as they always have and always will. Seeing the meteors of Perseid, Leonid and all the others falling in the late night sky as they always have and always will. Loving my family — no matter where they are – as I always have and always will.
It is as though this Universe in which we live and die is gently sharing this tiny but profound thought; the ones who have gone ahead are still here, living within the engine of the universe that keeps rolling before, during and after they left this place we call Earth.
It’s funny because for almost half of my life, I could not hear the Universe at all, could not understand why people so dear to me had to die. The same Universe that just 2 months ago had to hit me in the forehead with a 2” x 4” now whispers to me and I can hear her. She offers me comfort. She lifts a corner of the veil of the infinite – the place we came from, the place we will go and lets me peek underneath. And I soar into it.
Listening to the roar and the sigh of this place, seeing light and dark in their purest forms, leaving this body, being everywhere and nowhere, all at once, knowing, feeling, being joy. My very essence, my soul or spirit, if you will, joins the stream of all others who were and will be. My body is no longer along for the ride. Aches, pains, cares, shed like my skin as I rise into the infinite.
I went where Jill Bolte Taylor traveled when she had her stroke – part of everything and everything is part of me. This is what I saw on my brother Bob’s face at the moment of his death. Ten years old, grinning, blond hair being ruffled in the wind as he turned to wave good-bye to me then walked over the hill behind our barn in Pine Grove.
I knew when I came back to my body, this chair, this room, this morning…I knew that this is the secret of the universe.
I still know. This is death; this is life ever after.