And they shall all perish just as the mortals do…lest love seizes their aching hearts to deliver them in time.
Then the Lord said “My Spirit will not contend with human beings forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.” Genesis 6:3
Death. What does it teach us? Perhaps how to live? Some people certainly believe so. They belong to the circle of spiritual teachers or enlightened masters, who devoted their lives to relentless practice with a single-minded focus – to attain higher levels of consciousness. They are known as patient, faithful and fearless and their wisdom reaches deep, piercing through layers of restless samsara, the incessantly spinning wheel of material and mental illusions that comprise the visible world of the manifest, and dwell at the very core of everything that is, the still pond of IS-ness.
But for the rest of us unenlightened folk, can death really teach us anything at all or is it merely a source of much anguish, desperation and misery?
I tried hard to stay away from thinking too much about death but its unavoidability haunted me without respite. It was always there, the ever so looming drop off at the end of the road, a cliff edge that moved closer as I inched my way forward on this road of life. The idea of dying or worse, losing someone dear to its merciless claws of eternal oblivion, frightened me like nothing else. And we were all headed in that direction!
My mom laughed at me when after much prodding on her part I finally divulged how upset I was with such order of things. She said to me in her wise simplicity and much to my disappointment (as I was looking for some each-shattering abracadabra): “Honey, your life has just begun! Live and be happy and don’t concern yourself with such matters. What’s the use? Don’t think about it too much. You are way too serious!”
Serious, I was. Many regretted making me open my introverted mouth to ask questions. They were grave, too deep and much too serious for a young girl who should be concerning herself with other things. It always ended up the same way – me retreating to my philosopher’s cave for my solitary contemplation, namely my room. Lacking sufficient literature at the time (having lived in pre-internet era and in a town with a library with scant selections of this nature), I was left to my own mental devices. With time I noticed that in many respects it was easier to conjure up answers, usually before splitting one question into a number of sub queries, in the company of myself alone but also it soon came to me that philosophizing solo could only take me so far. It was a one way street. Nobody could counter or confirm my ideas. Having Ben in those moments was such a gift. But after the unfortunate turn of recent events, I might have lost him…
The key to solving life’s greatest equation kept eluding me. Despite much mental effort, I couldn’t find any way to trick death and misguide its scythe. So I tried another approach but soon conceded that even if the eternal Fountain of Youth existed, it must have been hidden somewhere amongst impenetrable peaks of the tallest mountains, I thought back then, not to mention that it’s tiny size would make even the fearless explorers or most advanced satellites miss it entirely. It was a lost case. Finally the idea of encountering a vampire, if they indeed existed, that would free me from the entrapment of space-time by making me become one of them didn’t quite appeal to me. I wasn’t interested in living the life of a zombie wandering through eternal night of shadows, always on the run, thank you. So finally, being the hopeless romantic that I was, I opted out for adopting a new belief entirely, the belief that only love could provide the ultimate respite from the bondage of mortality. Love – the eternal essence that survives all, even death. I was determined to find it.
How does it feel to die?
I was seven when I first became aware of time’s evanescence. It was on the day of my birthday. Because I was born in March, my birthdays usually occurred on dark, murky days. That year, the party was like none I had experienced before, due to what occurred after most guests went home. It was something that only I could notice.
Marianna, a girl my age who lived in the house next door, lingered a bit longer after supper. So we started to pay this silly game of throwing each other onto the bed while laughing uncontrollably until we were rolling in hysterics. Breathless and sweaty, we finally stopped and I remember pausing to stare at my bare arm and noticing the veins pulsating with life like blue rivers beneath my milky skin. Suddenly a thought hit me like a lightening bolt freezing time and causing me enormous pain. I heard my mind speak to me in my own voice: “This body is changing. It will never be what it was yesterday. The moment before this one is to never ever return again.”
My joy turned into sudden fright and unspeakable sadness descended upon me. I felt a choking sensation and my eyes began to tear up. I had no idea how to handle myself, especially with my friend there standing right next to me, her attention now momentarily directed elsewhere on some object in my room. I did not want to break down in front of her or spread my sadness to her so I decided to swallow my pain instead. But the atmosphere in my room had already been altered. The colors seemed grayer and everything including me was lifeless, exhausted from the disturbing discovery. As if sensing my mood, my friend suddenly decided to leave. But after her departure things got worse. Left to deal with it alone, I stood across from my bed trying to forget what I now knew. Except that I couldn’t… No distraction worked. I moved from my bed to sitting on my desk, restless in my sluggishness.
When I was calm enough to notice the world outside of my own, I noticed that in the kitchen, happy music was glaring through the radio speakers. Intermittently, I could hear my mother’s excited voice. She too, I thought, will one day die. And to my utter dismay, I realized it would most likely happen before me. I would have to witness it. I would have to live though it. I swallowed hard and unable to hold it anymore, I stormed out of my room and into the kitchen where she sat jovially chatting with my sister. I haven’t said a word as their mood rubbed off on me and before I knew it, I was in front on the television watching cartoons. But the awareness of life’s evanescence lingered and nagged…
That night the moon was full and my sleep agitated. In my dream I was standing on a precipice of a cliff. There was another cliff on the other side of a chasm. Someone was there I desperately wanted to reach them. I wanted it so bad in fact that it felt better to die rather than to not be with that person. So I jumped and plunged myself into total darkness. As I was falling, blackness finally gave way to faint foggy orange glow and I saw a face flash before my eyes, a face that was now etched onto the canvas of my mind. A face I would never forget.
That night a door to another world has been opened. I found my eternal love.