Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Death as a Gift

Earlier this year, a new neighbor moved into the apartment next to mine. He was a polite and pleasant person, so we would get together and chat a couple of times a week. 

Then Saturday morning, just as I was heading off to work, a stranger stopped me and asked if the dumpster by the parking lot is the one we are supposed to use. I answered his question and then told him that I didn't recognize him and wondered who he was. He then told me that his brother had just died two days before of a heart attack. He said that he had called 911 but that he was gone by the time the ambulance got there. He was talking about my neighbor. 

I was shocked because he did not look like he was struggling with physical health. In fact, he had just gotten a bicycle a month ago and was enjoying riding it. 

How odd it seems when a person a good bit younger than myself, about a dozen years younger, was just hanging out and talking with me just a few days ago suddenly dropped dead. Sudden deaths and young deaths are always the ones that jolt our consciousness the most, compared to a person who we know has been struggling with a serious disease for a long time.

A quote that I have found helpful in these types of circumstances is one by the groundbreaking and influential author Carlos Castaneda.

“Death is the only wise advisor that we have. Whenever you feel, as you always do, that everything is going wrong and you're about to be annihilated, turn to your death and ask if that is so. Your death will tell you that you're wrong; that nothing really matters outside its touch. Your death will tell you, 'I haven't touched you yet.”

Carlos Castaneda, Journey to Ixtlan

When we are jolted by the unexpected death of someone near us, I keep my perspective by knowing that I am still alive because it is not my time to die yet. This awareness wipes out the fear that a person may carry around for a while when they think thoughts like "I wonder how much time I have left?"

Knowing that it is not our time yet, we can get up every day and embrace the fact that we still have more time and more to do, and take a look at what those things are that we most want to do. This helps us make the important choices and silences the question that some people ask when they ask "I wonder what I am supposed to be doing?" You are supposed to be doing whatever you feel is most important to do. Amazing how the answers change when we tell ourselves that it is important to act decisively and shake off lethargy and clarify our visions for ourselves.

In this way, death can be a gift reminding us to be more conscious in appreciating and fully living this day we are in.