Reflections of Life and Death:
I write a journal daily and this blog is going to focus on one of my entries. I wrote about reflections. Not like the reflection in a shiny surface, but the kind we have when we look back at the past. In particular my reflections have been on death and birth recently. Why this subject have I been concentrating this subject of late? Will for a few reasons but the main ones are, one of my daughters is about to have a baby in July, the other one lost a baby about a year ago, and I just had a very bad health scare about a week ago. All this has me thinking of all my beloved, and not so beloved family members who have passed before me, back at each of the funerals I have been to and my own reaction to each.
I read a book in collage that spoke of “The Reflection of Death” mentions how with practice we must change our mind-set on death. Looking back I realize when my interest in death and what happens after death began. I also realized how different my reactions have been each time. Part of this difference was due to age, but I truly believe part of the difference has to do with my own journey and studies into religion and spirituality.
At the first funeral I attended was my sister’s funeral. My sister died, she was 14 years old and I was 13, and I remember hearing they found her dead in a pasture after being missing for several days. I never really had chance then to grieve her death because when ever I would start to cry my step-brother would tell me to pull it together that my parents needed me to be strong for them. So, I had plenty of time to sit down by the creek or taking long walks and thinking about death and what happens after death with out grief getting in the way.
The day of the funeral I was told the casket was to remain closed, but when I stood up to walk towards the back of the room someone opened the casket and I freaked out. I started running away from the casket and screaming. I really didn’t know why I was running away and screaming, I just knew that I didn’t want to see my sister dead, even though I had been taught growing up that when one dies they leave the body behind like a snake leaving their skin. At that moment when I ran from my sister’s funeral is when I decided to study what different religions believe about death.
Reflecting back upon this reaction now, I think my reaction was in part due in part not being allowed to grieve but also due to three other factors.
- The fact that I was only 14 and she was15, we were Irish twins and pretty darn close not only in age.
- She had been murdered and by the time they had her funeral they had not caught the person who did it and there was whispers that that person might be at the funeral. Imagine what that does to a 14 year old imagination, who already has a very vivid imagination.
- I was scared of death because I didn’t understand it, spirituality, or faith. So, I reacted to at her funeral with fear, instead of grief and mourning.
By the time I attended the next funeral which was 20 years later I had studied many different religions and what their thoughts were on death. The Baptist believes that you die and either goes to heaven or hell, depending on how you lived your life. In Catholicism they believe something very similar, except that you can get into heaven even if you lived a horrible life just by asking for forgiveness at the moment of your death. Then there is the Jehovah Witness who believes that when you die, your body is buried and nothing more happens.
I had not spoken to my father for over 15 years due to a misunderstanding and had just spent two years previously discussing life with him. While getting to know my father, all over again, he told me about my ancestry. He also said; “Your mother and I taught you to be your own person. You need to start traveling the path that is your destiny. Start really living life, instead of dying within the life you are pretending to have”.
When I received the call that my father had died, I couldn’t stop crying. I did everything I could to be at his funeral, including borrowing money. The day of his viewing I cried almost constant, then literally fill apart as they closed his casket. I fill apart to the point of having to be carried out of the funeral home and put into his wife’s truck. After the grave side service I stayed behind to grieve and to say goodbye to him and to my sister again, who gravestone was right next to my father‘s new grave. In a blink of an eye my grieving switched to rage. I started yelling
at my sister telling her she had won again. Once again she had dad with her and I was left without a father. After screaming at my sister’s gravestone for about 30 minutes and exhausting myself. I laid there on the ground between my sister and father’s graves crying and feeling so lost. I realized I wasn’t really angry AT my sister, I grieving for both of them. I was grieving for my father’s passing, for the loss of the previous 15 years I would never get back, and I was finally grieving my sister’s death.
As I said above was grieving, but I also was angry not at my sister, but because I had lost my sister 20 years previously, had not been allowed to grieve for her at the time, I had lost out on knowing my father because of a stupid misunderstanding, and because I had just lost my father after having a chance to get to know him from an adults point of view. But also because I was realizing my life as I had known it was changing, my marriage to my ex, for eight years was dying.
Yes, I was grieving the loss of many things in my life but not out of totally selfish reasons. I realized at this moment what my belief was about life and death. I believed that only their bodies laid here at these gravestones. Their spirits were free to start again and I would be seeing them in another form sometime in the future. After all our souls were connected and will remain so for all eternity. I know this because I could feel both of them as I lay there. I knew they were there watching over me, soothing me, loving me.
I went back to New York and ended my eight years of marriage and started a journey that leads me to where I am today. I also continued my studies in life and death, in religions, and other studies. Because I was more sure then ever of what my beliefs were, I knew I could make it though the rough points, after all I had my faith, and my father’s words to help me make it through.
Then in May of 2005 we received call that my brother had died in a car accident. I held my mom while she cried, I cried when I heard my older sister scream “Oh My God, not my brother”, but I didn’t cry for my brother. I spent time alone thinking about why I wasn’t crying. I reasoned that it was because we hadn’t been close, physically or emotionally for a very long time.
Yet, at his funeral I became aware that, the fact that we were not close, and had our differences, was only part of the reason I didn’t cry. The other half of the reason was I knew it was his time. I also knew that we would meet again at another time or on another plain when the time was right. He was just closing the door to his old life, and the shell he used during this life which was ravaged with alcoholism, drugs, anger, and bitterness was buried and now he was free of these problems and free to start his new life. Death is only an illusion in which we close one door and open another to a new beginning.
The last deaths I have fast so far in my life, and hopefully the last ones I will have to face before it is my time, other then my sweet grand babies were my mother’s and sister’s death which were with-in a month of each other. My mother was my best friend and greatest mentor, she died in April of 2010 of Lung Cancer which spread to her heart and brain. I took care of her and watched her weather away. It was hard for me, but not as hard if I had not had my faith I clung too. The day she passed I sat by her side that whole day and night until she took her last breath. I was the only child out of 4, who was able to be there. Two had already passed before her and my sister had her own handful with a husband who had cancer. I took care of the house we had to close down, the funeral arrangements etc. I did not have time to grieve or feel any type of emotions except to think about the days before that I had spent with her. I went over those days as I went through her things at the house. We held a give away and had her friends come and take a memorial piece they wanted to keep in memory of mom, we donated to the blind association etc. I didn’t even cry when we scattered part of her ashes at the base of a tree in her favorite park over looking Lake Erie, per her request. I did however allow myself sometime to cry and grieve on the train back to NYC, where I was living at the time. I reflect on this now and again I believe the lack of tears and what seems like the lack of grief was my knowing my mom was not in that shell any longer, she was not racked with pain, she was free to see her other children, to visit the man she loved, and to to start what other life was waiting for her. The as I said my sister died a month later by car accident. Again tears did not come, only the feeling of loss.
This does not mean I do not grieve or fear death for others in my life, such as, my wife, my daughter, and the new grandchild on the way. My fear is not of the Illusion of death, but pure selfishness on my part. I do not feel my time with them is through, that we have many things still to do in this life to do together. I was told once that the day you are born is the day you begin to die. I truly believe this is wrong, for in my studies and my own life I have come to the conclusion that the day you are born is the day you begin to live, until you die then you are born again into another life in which you begin again until you reach the ultimate enlightenment. Then you become an enlightened being who watches over others not only in life but in death.