Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Living, Suffering, Surviving and the Mystery of Dying

     I used to believe that dying was a linear, predictable process.  I used to believe that things get bad, then worse, then end.  Like many, I also used to dread death and think it was extraordinarily cruel that we are able to euthanize our animals, but have no ability to terminate the suffering of our human loved ones.

      And then I spent time - a lot of time - with death and dying, up close and personal, day in and day out.  I saw illness, disease and health ebb and flow; progress, plateau, improve and fade again.  I watched loved ones struggle, fight and beg for mercy and an end that did not come easily or readily.  My heart shattered and my mind disintegrated with helplessness and confusion.  My innate drive to help, to fix things, to make it all better, to nurture was infuriatingly stymied. 

      It was only after being with many who were dying that I have come to appreciate that the mystery of dying also brings beauty
It is the same beauty that comes with a fierce summer thunderstorm or a winter's blizzard.  I do not wish for or enjoy suffering or seeing the suffering of others, but I do appreciate the incredible things that happen when we realize we are not in control of the world, our plans mean nothing, and there is something bigger than us in charge.  It is what we do in the face of hardship: how we engage in a deep and meaningful way, how our differences evaporate, how the small moments and brief kindnesses mean everything.  How clear it is that love, compassion and kindness are all that matter.

     I don't fear death any more.  I don't even fear a premature or painful death.  I know none of that is within my control.  I do hope - for myself and for all -  that it is a good death, surrounded by loved ones who are truly with me, connected and present, through whatever comes.

     It has become my life's work to try to bring this to others, in both the human and animal worlds because we do not know, we do not understand, we cannot predict.  All we can do is be there in that moment finding beauty where we can, peace when it is possible, and compassion always.

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