“I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
Mary Oliver, From A Summer’s Day
The Buddhists call it “impermanence”. We are all aware that everything changes and is always either , being birthed, breaking down or dying. All in the mystery of life unfolding.
Yet, what is our relationship with the indisputable fact that our physical bodies will eventually cease to be here? Yes, our own mortality.
In a time of global pandemics, climate change, and upheaval of systems and social standards that are ripe for major overhaul, we are faced even more with our own eventual physical death. As well as shedding of identities that perhaps fit more into what is breaking down than who we are becoming.
Last year an accidental fall over a gas nozzle hose, connected to my car that I attempted to step over, landed me head first on cement. Through an ER visit where broken bones and a subdural hematoma were ruled out, I realized that in an instant physical life as we know it can change dramatically.
Though there were no broken bones and my brain was counted as “normal”, once I returned home I was incapacitated and in shock needing assistance to dress and do the simplest of basic living tasks. It was then that I realized that it wasn’t death that I was afraid of, but loss of independence. This need for assistance lasted only for a few days, but it left its mark on me.
Accepting our own death, and that of our loved ones, is a unique journey all of us make. It cannot be avoided, especially as we age. We are an intimate part of the cycle of life, death and regeneration.
As elders we can choose to celebrate the essence of who we are now and share that wisdom, artistry and life experience with everyone we come in touch with, or we can follow the dominant culture and be terrified of our own mortality.
“We have created a global dominant culture which is terrified of its’ own mortality, so we lock our old people away”
From Giving Back To The Earth, A Video by Green Renaissance
It is normal to be afraid of our own death and hopefully take the time to have a relationship with it and support others in that process. But we have very little control over how and when our eventual demise will happen. As one woman says in the short video below – “If you are not conscious that you are going to die, then you are not fully alive”.
As Mary Oliver wrote in “A Summer’s Day”, “Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon. Tell me, what is it you plan to do with this one wild and precious life?” That is a question to live in every single moment you are blessed with no matter what age you are.
A COUPLE OF RESOURCES:
The Green Burial Guidebook, Everything You Need to Plan an Affordable, Environmentally Friendly Burial by Elizabeth Fournier.
Life Lessence Legacy – personalized legacy books with Andy Kidd.
Die Wise by Stephen Jenkinson