Death is a strange thing. It’s so finite, and so absolute, in the grand scheme of life. Having recently experienced a death in my immediate family, I wanted to take a bit of time to reflect upon death, as my way of dealing with it, and making sense of it.

I was praying for my brother-in-law and watched him pass away a few months ago. He was plugged into a bunch of machines, was unconscious, and passed really peacefully. He seemed at rest. Being able to see him, in his dying moments, and even in the lead up to his operation, it made me realise that we all have to leave this place eventually.

As much as we would like to stay, and imagine there is no end to our lives. There is a definite beginning and an end. In that frame of context, I realised, that actually we regularly have things end in our lives. We don’t mourn, or grieve those endings, for they are but beginnings of another chapter, or the next steps, and why should death be any different.

Of course, there is the obvious loss, and bereavement, that comes with losing a loved one. But if we really look at it, life is constantly teaching us to not be attached to things, and to let go. The moment we are born, we have to let go of that warm comfortable feeling that we have in our mother’s wombs, and of the sustenance that kept us alive through our umbilical cords.

As we grow, from being a baby to a child, we grow out of our clothes, our need to ‘cry’ to communicate we need attention, and our dependence on being carried everywhere, as we learn to use our limbs, and start to become ever more autonomous.

As we become young adults, we grow out of childhood, and often develop the independence, to fend for ourselves, and live our own lives, at times through our own choosing, at other times through necessity. Our parents may lose us as their little dependent children, but we grow into being responsible for our actions, and our destiny.

Death is never absolute. Everything in nature, never dies, it only changes form. You look at the leaves falling off the trees in autumn, when they collapse on the ground, they naturally transform into compost. That compost then nourishes, and feeds the plants all around it, and then in spring new leaves are ‘born’, and return to bring life to the trees.

I think the caterpillar is the epitome of ‘death’, and the perfect metaphor for what happens to any of us, at every stage of our lives. We disappear for a while. Are forced to turn ‘inwards’, as we re-organise ourselves, and as we change from what we were to what we will become. And only, after we reach a certain stage of maturity are we able to ’emerge’ from our cocoons, as beautiful flying creatures, that now move in a completely different way from before.

Some may choose to think that this life is all we have, but knowing from personal experience, death is a ‘liberation’ from our human bodies. It is not the end of our souls, but the beginning of a new journey, of a next step in our experience of existence. We are not physical beings living a mundane human existence, but instead are spiritual beings that briefly live in these mortal bodies, to experience the physicality of life. But when the time for that experience is over, our bodies are no longer needed, and so we leave them. But our souls never die, they live eternally, in other dimensions, through other experiences.

Like the butterfly, our souls are free to soar and fly. At the moment my brother-in-law passed away, I did not feel the grief, or sorrow of his family, but instead I felt his spirit flying free, from a body ravaged by cancer. He was at peace, and he was at rest, in a place beyond this world. But he most certainly lived on, in a different form. So, whilst it has been a tragic loss, and it has been a difficult and trying time for me, and for my family, it has equally been a humble reminder that we are only here for a finite period of time. And in that time, we must do what we can, with what we have, to the best of our abilities.

For when we pass on, we will take nothing of this physical world, but our memories, our experiences, and what we learned. We may leave behind a legacy, or a loving memory, or we may leave this world untouched by our being here. I for one, aspire to be able to have touched as many lives, and inspired as many people as my brother-in-law did. For all his faults, and shortcomings, he meant well, and did his best, and the hole he left in his community was felt, only because of how much he enriched the people he came into contact with.

It’s good to remember our own mortality at times, if only to remind us that we live in an eco-system of life. That no man is an island. And that our lives are only made richer, by what we give to others, not what we take for ourselves.

In loving memory of my brother-in-law. You were loved deeply, by everyone who knew you.

 

Butterfly image sourced from Kumar Gauraw and his excellent telling of the story of a butterfly in a cocoon.
Autumn leaves image sourced from Today I Found Out where they described why leaves change colour in autumn.

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