Death, The Great Midwife

Meadowdale Beach County Park Eckart Tolle on Death

 

 

As we move through the rituals of Holy Week this meditation from Eckhart Tolle in Stillness Speaks is a rich companion.

“When you walk into a forest that has not been tamed and interfered with by humans, you will not only see abundant life all around you, but you will also encounter fallen trees and decaying trunks, rotting leaves and decomposing matter at every step.  Wherever you look, you will find death as well as life.

Upon closer scrutiny, however, you will discover that the decomposing tree trunk and rotting leaves not only give birth to new life, but are full of life themselves.  Microorganisms are at work.  Molecules are rearranging themselves.  So death isn’t to be found anywhere.  There is only the metamorphosis of life forms.  What can you learn from this…?

If you can learn to accept and even welcome the endings in your life, you may find that the feeling of emptiness that initially felt uncomfortable turns into a sense of spaciousness that is deeply peaceful.

By learning to die daily in this way, you open yourself to Life….

Whenever death occurs, whenever a life form dissolves, God, the formless and unmanifested, shines through the opening left by the dissolving form.  That is why the most sacred thing in life is death.  That is why the peace of God can come to you through the contemplation and acceptance of death.”

 

Photo:  Meadowlake Beach County Park, Lynnwood WA USA

 

 

Aging

"Into the Woods" by Vinoth Chandar

“Into the Woods” by Vinoth Chandar

At age 69 I have begun to listen to older friends as they cope with losing one friend after the other.  Someone said she can go to three funerals a week some months.  I’ve been trying to wrap my head around that kind of loss and how it must feel  After awhile one must just throw up one’s arms and shout, “Bring it on!  I’m all alone anyway!” I want to continue with tried and true spiritual practices that have sustained me in the past, and develop new ones to see me through this new stage of aging, which began today with news that my recently deceased sister’s friend has received a sobering diagnosis.  The best practice for me seems to hit it straight-on, put it out there where I can see it.  So here it is:

First family funerals-
Natural.
Expected. Sick and aging parents.
We can do this.
We make peace with
The emptiness left by November’s unleaving.*
Life goes on, they say.
And it does.

Then sibling death-
Unnatural.  Unexpected.
That shouldn’t happen,
But it does.

It doesn’t stop there.
Today I hear November winds howl
Around vulnerable friends
Who stand like dominoes
Waiting their turn.
I feel like the Ancient Mariner,
“Alone, alone, all, all alone, “
Wondering what curse I have called down.

How do we bear this Last unleaving?
Grace.
Our bare, black spirit -limbs
Are leaved round by brilliant
Grace sustaining.
No curse.
Blessing.

© rita h kowats

* I am indebted here to Gerard Manley Hopkins for the word, “Unleaving,” coined in his poem, “Spring and Fall.”

** “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner,” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Fourth Part