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Living to Die or Dying to Live

The topic of death and dying has consistently challenged the human experience. It is the one thing we are guaranteed from birth, yet what we may most fear. It is not just that we will die; there is also the aspect of not being able to choose the moment or how we die that solicits fear. I have to wonder if the unknown surrounding death brings on the fear or is it part of the collective consciousness' encoding. At what point in the evolution of humankind did fear become an aspect of death. I can't imagine that the animal kingdom fears death. They don't sit around and think of everything they should have done or not done. They don't worry if eating a particular type of kibbles will promote an early death or what supplements will expand their longevity. Like humans, they are encoded with the fight or flight reflex of self-preservation. One is an instinct; the other is an irrational response to the uncontrollable. Our lack of control over the whole death scenario is daunting; we do not get to choose when and where, and we most certainly don't get to choose what will kill us. Will it be sudden, or will it be long and drawn out? Will it be a peaceful departure, or will it be an explosive exit? Then there is the fear of our loved ones' death, again a space of complete and total lack of control. Personally, I am more afraid of losing someone I love than losing my own life. For instance, when I lost my oldest sister, brother-in-law, and parents, I found the sting and void left by losing them hard to navigate. The longing for human contact with them is the void that can not be duplicated, though I have always felt their presence and now interact with them on a different level. So while experiencing their deaths, I feared the loss of their human presence in my life. I am sure that mainstream religions' dogma has haunted many of our perceptions regarding death. The thought that we will be punished for how we lived or didn't live our lives is terrifying to some. The conditional rewards of heaven promised by some religions leave us with constant self-criticism. However, death and punishment in the afterlife are not the only warped perceptions; other cultural opinions of death have altered the reality of death and dying. Like the idea of good and evil spirits, heaven and hell, being stuck in limbo, karma, and multiple lives. Because we did not come to life with a manual on life, death, and the hereafter, we have been left to conjure up stories to make sense of the unknown. These made-up stories have become the blueprints for how some navigate the idea of death and dying. What I see/sense/hear is a space of intense turmoil fed by the caustic acid of fear. Included in this fearful space are the religious and scientific belief systems that proclaim that there is no extension after this life, believing that when the human body dies, it is the end of that life source. Living from this perspective has a whole other bag of fears. The question it brings to my mind is, what's the use? Leaving me feeling empty and with no purpose. There are so many documented NDEs (near-death experiences). Most of those folks will tell you that there is definitely something on the other side; they refer to this human experience as the dream (unreal) and the afterlife self (soul, spirit, being) as who we truly are, which is a space in communion with Divine Love or the Source of All. You may ask why I am writing about this today. The reason being is it has been a week of eath talk. I have had a few very poignant conversations regarding death, dying, killing, and the fear surrounding those topics. It started with a conversation with my dear friend, who will be 95 in a few days. He has a wicked sense of humor (some might say a sick sense of humor) that I love to be around. He is known for saying things that most people think of but dare not verbalize. No filter here! As we talked last weekend, he was ruminating over how many "sponsorees" he has lost to the disease of alcoholism and the loved ones who have died before him. Most of them had lived and died what most would call a "hard" life. This sounds like a difficult conversation, but it wasn't. My friend Everett always has a twinkle in his eyes. Although he has seen and experienced the worst of life and the best of life, when he speaks, I have yet to hear him speak with remorse or regret. Some see this as narcissism; I sense a man who made his mends with life, dispelled the dreams of fear, and is living in the moment full of Divine Love for

himself and all of humankind. His path has not been easy, but he has lined it with the sweet essence of Love and acceptance. As our conversation ended, I asked him what he would have me know, and he responded, "don't take any of it too seriously except for your relationship with Your God." Oh, how I love that man! The next day our area of planet earth was invaded with the news of an "active shooter" at a 4th of July parade. Young and old had been shot, and several left for dead. Loved ones were faced with the scene's experience and terror, and a community was rocked to its core by violence. There were many conversations spawned by this event; the need to make sense of how this happens, the immense terror, and that it is possible anywhere and at any time permeated the word exchanges. My response to this terror is different than most; I keep hearing deep within my being "See Only Love." My logical side knows that this is not a usual response and may be offensive and hurtful to some, especially those directly impacted by this and other acts of violence. It may even seem to be a means of spiritual bypassing, looking over the reality of the situation or my own emotions. However, I know that when it comes to grief and trauma, we must experience ALL of the emotions. For me, "Seeing only Love" is my Soul's perspective. In my human experience bypassing the anger, fear, sadness, abandonment, and depression of death and trauma will interfere with acceptance. Everett's words rang in my ears, "Don't take any of it too seriously except for your relationship with Your God." From what I have read and heard from folks who have experienced NDEs, it is that in death, we lose our attachment to this plane. We realize that we are not the body we have just left behind and that there is nothing but the bliss of Love. Those who lost their lives in this violent manner are not suffering; they are not attached to the ins, outs, and whys of mass murder. They are simply experiencing themselves as LOVE. It is us, those who have been left behind, to figure out how we will respond to life in this time and space. For me, searching for compassion for ALL involved begins my healing journey. Finally, yesterday I had a conversation with a gentleman whose physician recently gave him a few months to live. After facilitating a healing session, we spoke of his prognosis. I asked him what the most challenging thing about hearing those words from his physician was. He promptly said that it was the idea of having to leave his wife behind. So, once again, I am left with the effects of the living, not the dying. We briefly discussed the hidden blessing within this kind of prognosis. He has been given a closer look at the "when" and "what" of death, affording him the opportunity to express his Love more expansively to all of his loved ones. A chance at "No Regrets." I woke up today asking myself, am I living to die or dying to live; reminded that I, too, have the opportunity to express my Love more expansively to All of humanity, striving for No Regrets! Returning us to the beginning of this writing, I repeat that the one thing we are guaranteed in life is death. How, when, and why it will happen is unknown and what happens after death is unknown. Yet, we control our reactions and actions towards the gift of life. Leaving me to ask my never-ending eternal question; "What Will I Choose Today!" I leave you with these words.

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