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Dying with Innocence

Posted on 17 Jan | 3 comments
Closed Eyes 2, by Odilon Redon
Closed Eyes 2, by Odilon Redon

How does one move into the acceptance of death, when hope has been the sustaining force of life? The question is upon me at this moment after hearing the news that someone close to my heart, in years and shared existence, has been told that her cancer is incurable and nothing more can be done. This woman, otherwise young and vital through every phase of her life, is a particular creature along with her husband. What they share in common is an unusual and rarified innocence and optimism in all aspects of their being. Both in their mid fifties, they have maintained a child-like wonder, walking through their days in acceptance and trust that all will be as it should and that everything is essentially good.

Through the decades of our relationship, I have been perplexed and astonished at their ability to meet the rigors of the mundane without falling into any semblance of despair. Their on-going joke has been, “ if someone’s got to do it, better you than me,” and thus they have carried on in what seemed to me to be a protective halo of exemption from the harshness of the world. Rollo May, would have us trust that the keys to freedom and possibility lie in the surrender to destiny. So how will my friends who seemingly have no psychic reality to show them the way or convince them of the rightness of accepting such a destiny, find a foothold in their journey forward.

As I ponder this dilemma, I am reminded of the luminous story, Death of a Traveling Salesman by Eudora Welty. We are introduced to a man named Bowman, a complacent, easy-going salesman who becomes stricken with a fever while driving down the road. Always in control, and a stranger to his emotional self, he becomes disoriented and literally loses his way. Because it is the nature of illness to bring one closer to him or herself, resistance for Bowman becomes his imperative. “He does not like illness, he distrusted it, as he distrusted the road without signposts.” When his car careens over a hill, he is forced to seek refuge in the home of strangers who serve to guide him back to himself, as he is completing the circle of life. Unable to combat the exhaustion of illness, Bowman finally makes a startling turn: “ this time when his heart leapt, something- his soul- seemed to leap like a little colt invited out of a pen…” . In his last days, Bowman comes into communion with his sensitivity and makes a connection with all creation.

As my friend begins to prepare herself for the unthinkable, I ask myself how I can help. Do I speak to her about the potential in pain; that through acceptance in loss and suffering she will find a richness of soul never imagined?  Do I ask her to accept the hand of destiny; do I whisper to her, “Amor Fati, Love your Fate”, which is in fact your life” (Nietzche)?  In the days and months to come, I will try in the small ways I can and I will read to her of Bowman and others, who were able to find a state of beauty reserved only for those on the precipice of death. Or will she walk into her dying shrouded in innocence, finding all that she needs wearing her rose colored glasses. Is it my limitation, in my existential bias that cannot yet imagine such a posture being authentic and whole?

Perhaps I will never know, but one thing is certain; in my living I know I will feel the separation of our worlds, for as Rilke once stated, we who have not arrived “ know nothing of this going away, that shares nothing with us”.

-- Bonnie Fitz-Gibbon

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Comments and Discussions

It still disturbs me a little

It still disturbs me a little to think about death in that the world is perfectly capable of going on without me in it or thinking about it. I used to worry about dying "before my time",ie. before I had done a lot of the things I wanted to. But now I just feel a little sad for my friends who have died and the way the world carries on as if they were never here- how would M have liked this meal, would he have liked this landscape, worn this T-shirt? It only matters in my thoughts- and maybe in others', but there is no glaring "absence" for others to notice. Your friend will slowly "disappear" until all that is left will be yours and others' thoughts of her.

"As my friend begins to

"As my friend begins to prepare herself for the unthinkable, I ask myself how I can help. Do I speak to her about the potential in pain; that through acceptance in loss and suffering she will find a richness of soul never imagined? Do I ask her to accept the hand of destiny; do I whisper to her, “Amor Fati, Love your Fate”, which is in fact your life” (Nietzche)? In the days and months to come, I will try in the small ways I can and I will read to her of Bowman and others, who were able to find a state of beauty reserved only for those on the precipice of death. Or will she walk into her dying shrouded in innocence, finding all that she needs wearing her rose colored glasses. Is it my limitation, in my existential bias that cannot yet imagine such a posture being authentic and whole?"

Yes, I think you identified your limitations - coming from a purely intellectual perspective on this. I discovered in 2001 that I have a gift (often feels more like a curse) of being able to part the veil into the mystical/esoteric/spiritual plane. And later I discovered that I have an even more special "gift" of having dying beings - human and non-human, but mostly animals - seek me out as they sense their imminent transition into spirit. I have had more animals than I would like come to me when they're preparing to cross over for help in the process. For a brief story of one of these events 2 weeks ago, I invite you to check out my Facebook post "About | Wake Up - the film" on my FB wall at: https://www.facebook.com/help/search/?q=types+of+accounts

Don't worry - I'm not trying to sell you anything or even change your point of view on spirituality. Just offering you some of my personal experience and insights about how you might help your friend cross over with peace and grave.

Arian Ward (Falcon)

Beautiful - a journey for you

Beautiful - a journey for you as well. Let us know how you are along the way.

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