When my brother passed away in October, I was relieved to hear there would be a memorial called, “A Celebration of Life”. Too often memorials are quagmires of anger, fear and resentment. This happened at my sister’s memorial, when there was an air or bitterness and defeat in the room, no celebration. There is this Western idea of death as permanent, final. This creates tremendous fear and anger and confusion, which is understandable when one holds this perspective.
The Buddha famously said, Life is suffering. But what if someone told you they had a remedy for your deepest pain and suffering? What if there was a cure for all your worries and woes, that you would never have to fret about paying your mortgage or rent again, that you would not have to work anymore, that you would no longer need healthcare or to even worry about what to eat and when to exercise or how to heal your marriage or relationships, messy stuff like that?
Author Eckart Tolle said: Death may be the time of our greatest glory.
And then again, as Elizabeth Kubler Roth says: Death does not exist. There are only transitions, changes in form and life, but no true death. Death is actually birth, an opening in the veil, a transition and doorway back to reality. This world is sometimes called maya, or illusion.
The Sufi poet Rumi says, If I die ~ don’t say she died. Say she was dead, became alive, and was taken by the Beloved
Grieving, of course, is advisable and healthy. In a way, maybe we are actually jealous of the one who is going home to the magnificence of the spirit world. The Zen-Buddhists have a concept of weeping with one eye. That is, we allow our grief and sorrow, give ourselves that space of time – however long it takes, to grieve. But we also keep an eye on a spiritual perspective, see the whole picture. We mustn’t miss the celebration by weeping too long.
Rumi says, On the day I die, when I am being carried toward the grave, don’t weep. Don’t say, He’s gone. He’s gone. Death has nothing to do with going away. The sun sets and the moon sets, but they are not gone. Death is a coming together. The tomb looks like a prison, but it is really release into union.
Tagore puts it like this: Death is not extinguishing the Light. it is putting out the lamp because the Dawn has come.
Few of us are really alive anyway as we struggle through this human experience. We fear death as we fear life. If we listen to the stories of those who have near death experiences, it is almost always reports of approaching light, of returning refreshed and renewed, unafraid of death, and ready to finally, truly live while here in this amazing earthly experience.
I finish with yet one more quote from Rumi: At last you have departed and gone to the Unseen. What marvelous route did you take from this world? Beating your wings and feathers, you broke free from this cage. Rising up to the sky, you attained the world of the soul . . . As a lovesick nightingale, you flew among the owls. Then came the scent of the rose garden and you flew off to meet the Rose.