Many people have a limited and disconnected viewpoint of living and life; death and dying. The concept of continuity is not in the equation. Of course I’m only speaking based upon my observations of people, nature and the universe in my limited perception, yet given basic science lessons learned in school, one might think that we would understand this continuity and the balance that is in play at all times.
Death was introduced to me in its apparent finality just prior to my adolescence. I was approximately 12 years old and lost my great grandfather whom I had a very strong bond with as I spent time with him every day. He was a warm, wonderful, and now looking back, funny human being. Although, throughout my entire life I had no idea he was slowly being eroded away by prostate cancer, like many people, I expected him to be a part of my life forever because he was there from the moment of my birth. With his demise, I became enraged! Although I could not express what I had loss, I knew the loss was great because he was one of my emotional strongholds and a constant figure in my life.
Later in life,through my study of Buddhism, I learned a great deal about how things worked. I understood that death was not a final frontier, but merely one that had to be crossed to continue in a new manifestation. In many ways, it’s like buying a new car; developing fondness and appreciation for it, yet over time, it becomes too much to continue to sustain the car as it ages and begins to fall apart, until finally, it no longer works at all. Now granted, a car and a person aren’t quite the same thing, but the idea is the same. The old car goes to the junkyard and a new one is purchased.
In the case of human beings, we first have to understand, we’re not bodies with a soul, but souls with a body (Depak Chopra). This being the case, the body is more easily equated with a car. As souls using a body in each lifetime to manifest our spiritual awakening, we use that body until it is no longer capable of performing the functions we need to accomplish our enlightenement in each lifetime. Once this happens, we die and reincarnate as different being in a rejuvenated manifestation. The soul exist regardless of the condition of the body and continues on eternally. With this understanding came a release from the pain and suffering of lossing anyone or anything from then on.
In reference to death and dying and the rituals surrounding the process, I became aware that these ceremonies are for the living. After all, the dead have long since vacated the bodies that they once inhabited and hopefully are living a happy and prosperous new life. I further realized how out of tune we are by entombing our dead in processes, devices or buildings that prevent the remains from rejoining the universe. When we mummify, encase or house our dead in a way that prevents their atoms from being reabsorbed into the universe, we are breaking one aspect of the cycle of birth and death. Although the soul might not be contained and is continuing its journey, the materials of the body are not being recycled within the environment the way nature intended.
Observing a loved one going through a slow dying process can be emotionally excruciating as we watch them wasting away. When we find that someone has a disease, disorder or other slow dissemination process, although we see it as a horrible way to die for the person in the process, I have found that it is much better for those remaining behind. It appears that a longterm dying process opens the doors of acceptance that the loved one will no longer be in their lives. As a matter of fact, if the suffering of that loved one is great enough, one is sometimes happy to see them released from pain and on their way. Slow death also gives one the opportunity for closure. The doubts and questions that are not resolved in life or in a quick death, often can be resolved and answered as the dying person is slowly parting.
I recently became aware of the fact that many persons, especially the elderly, are kept drugged with narcotics during the death process so that they don’t stress. Those perpetrating this action think that it is beneficial for the dying for some reason. I wonder if those dead could be asked, would they have had things left undone because they were in a doped stupper until they left their bodies? Perhaps they had fences to mend which they weren’t able to do because they could not protest the decision to keep them unconscious during their dying process. When one gives their Durable Power of Attorney for their health treatment over to another, they give up their right to protest anything that person does on their behalf. I think it is in everyone’s best interest to think these things over and leave specific directives in reference to these minute details.
Death and dying are natural processes and merely part of the continuum of life. I believe that when we come to the full realization that death is only one more step in a continuing journey than we will suffer less and rejoice in the opportunity to celebrate our loved ones moving on as was done in earlier cultures and sometimes still done symbolically in some cultures as in the New Orleans style secondline ceremony which parades mournfully to the burying place than burst into joyful rhythm and dancing upon leaving. Joyously celebrating the life of the departed one.