Mourning

Hi everybody,

Gerry was a jovial man. For the last ten years of his professional life he was the janitor of a care home, having originally been an engine fitter in a company that went bankrupt. He had been grateful for the job and did far more than janitorial duties. It was his readiness to help anyone that made him popular amongst staff and residents alike. He could always tell a little story that made people smile.

In the years after retirement he stayed on the staff as an honorary capacity, mostly leading chat groups and even becoming the speaker for the residents on the advisory board. He sang in the choir with a resounding tenor, fetched people for the church service in the care home and even looked after the canary with the lopsided beak.

His wife, Erica, was a lady who didn’t manage to see life quite as jovially as he did. She was often very worried, anxious that things could go wrong or that they could become ill. They often bantered in front of other volunteers, causing onlookers to laugh and smile. Gerry played to the audience which didn’t always appeal to his wife.

One day it all changed. He had suffered from bursitis in later years, a painful irritation of the joints which slowed him down. Still, he was active in the care home and played practical jokes so that nobody noticed his ailment. But one caper went too far. He was gesticulating as usual sat on the edge of an office chair and it rolled away from under him. He hit the hard floor solidly, trying to catch his fall with his hands. A lightening bolt of pain shot up his arm into his left shoulder where he had felt the most pain recently. It left him writhing on the floor amidst a group of horrified observers.

He was brought to me to judge the damage. He was pale and his left shoulder looked decidedly shorter than the right, so we decided to send him to the hospital. He told me about the bursitis, but this was more. He couldn’t move his arm but had to be persuaded that he be taken into the hospital. It was as though he knew that something was seriously wrong but couldn’t face up to it. In the hospital they found that the joint had been weakened by bone cancer, the primary cancer was in his lung, and his shoulder had been befallen by metastasises.

He was suddenly a different person. He wanted no visitors. Not even the people he had known for more than twenty years. He shut himself away and even his wife avoided meeting people on the street. People who called had the telephone put down on them. One woman was asked why she should still have her husband but Gerry should die. It was as though everything had happened that Erica had feared all along.

It made me ask myself how I would react to such news, and whether I would have the intuition that something in my body was wrong. Would I ignore it? Would I try to pretend that everything was alright? Would I pray to my God? And once it was clear, would I avoid people’s prying eyes, their questioning look, their commiseration and affection? I believe to know that I would find a source of strength in tradition, assurance in the fact that my life was used to help people, comfort in the loving faces of friends and family. I believe that I would in fact feel sorry for those I was leaving behind, but do I know that?

Any thoughts?

Shalom
Bob

Hi Bob,

I don’t think there is any way to know what or how we would react. I don’t think watching others approaching their transformation is any help. It’s all too personal.

I’ve listened to what people say about death, but often times, their reaction to impending death is much different than their statements.

I think the most that we can hope for is to approach our own leaving with as much dignity as is possible. Not so much for ourselves, but for those we leave.

It seems to me our passing can only be comfortably accepted when we choose life.

It reminds me of a fictional character who learned of a secret recipe for making whiskey - whiskey that would give eternal life. The character did make and consume large amounts of what he called, “old death whisper”. He proclaimed that because of his ‘spirits’ he was going to live forever, and he was well on his way, living into his 90’s. One night, while dreaming, it occurred to him that he was no longer among the living. His response was, “Well, I was immortal till I died!”

I liked that character and I liked his take on death. He had no thought of dying, only living. Death came when it came. Would that we all could have that attitude - and a copy of the recipe for that whiskey!

JT

this is a tough topic… I recently had a friend pass away 2.5 years ago that avoided going to the doctor until the very last minute, they tried chemo-ing but it had no effect.

he chose to be very open after finding out he had cancer and told everyone and accepted all of the emotional support that he recieved.

IMO, life flashes by in an instant there’s no point in dying alone.

That is a very difficult question, and one that’s been on my mind a lot, too. I agree that it’s nearly impossible to know until we’re facing our imminent death just how we’d react. Certainly there’s shock, anger, denial and acceptance…but what beyond that? I would need some time alone to reflect upon my impending doom, but I think I’d want to spend as much of the time I had left with my family. Probably fishing with my Dad, for starters.

The Bhuddists say we must have compassion for all since we’re all dying. So if we’re all dying, should we live our whole lives mourning our deaths or celebrating our lives? My soul is comprised of a strange blend of both feelings. I do carry some melancholy whistfulness over the impermanence and fragility of life, mixed with a little joy just for having the moment I occupy now.

Hello everyone,

We begin dying the moment we are born. Death is inevitable and while it’s important not to become obsessed with dying, it is more important to contemplate how we are living now and take action lest we find ourselves on our deathbed with regrets or worse. Perhaps everything that we want to do ‘one day’ should be done now - of course I’m referring to our spiritual journey, everything else can wait. Death comes in it’s own time but in the mean time we can transform ourselves to live our purpose.

These questions will be asked - if we can learn from our brothers then their lives have not been in vain and ours will inspire others in turn.

A

Hi guys,

thanks for the reaction.

I think those who pointed to life, and how we use that life, are pointing to something helpful. Gerry always winced at the more painful side of life when he saw it, he tended to look away. I remember him saying that he couldn’t do my job, although we needed someone to do his job and be him.

Choosing life, with all of its attributes, both known and reported, is sometimes a hard thing to do. It is where the question of meaningfulness arises, it is where we ask whether it is ‘worth it’ - whatever that means. I get the feeling that to choose life, we sometimes have to forfeit other things. Some of them mean a lot to us. Some of them are dreams we have built up, goals we have achieved, positions we have reached.

People who are dying tend to slow the world down, that is why they are often overseen. When you are around dying people, it is as though the room is on hold. There is time to think. There is time to reflect. I think that many mourners cry because they see their own life reflected in the experience of the dying. The loss of a beloved mother, father or friend is there of course, but it is the reflection of our own lives against mortality, stealing from us the illusion that we are immortal that makes us weep.

Many mourners have showed resolution after spending a long time saying goodbye, and been able to take up their lives with new vigour. Others, who have avoided seeing the dead, wanting to retain the memory of how the people were, have often had difficulty. I have often asked myself whether it is because they have avoided the reflection.

It is in my professional life watching people die, sometimes urging them to let go, praying for them or with them that I moved in the direction that Kierkegaard had moved: “The more intimate my Prayer became, the less I had to say. At last I became completely quiet. I thought at first that prayer was talking. But I learnt that prayer isn’t just silence, but listening. That is it! Prayer doesn’t mean listening to oneself speaking; Prayer means to become quiet and wait, until the one praying hears God.”

It is this becoming quiet and listening that we avoid in our world today, but in the same room with the dying, we are forced to be quiet and listen. It is then that we hear those things whispered in our inner ear that we don’t want to be true. That is why spirituality has to do with being able to mourn.

Matthew 5:4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Shalom
Bob

I think it is only natural to mourn the passing of a loved one, but in a sense, if one is honest, it must finally turn to celebrating of that life that is no longer with us. They enriched our lives and for that, we should be grateful.

For ourselves it would be good to mourn our passing now and then live.

"We come out into life and go back into death.
The companions of life are thirteen;
The companions of death are thirteen;
And yet people, because they regard life as LIFE, in all of their
actions move toward the thirteen that belong to the realm of
death.
Now, why is this so?
It’s because they regard life as LIFE.

You’ve no doubt heard of those who are good at holding on to
life:
When walking through the hills, they don’t avoid rhinos and tigers;
When they go into battle, they don’t put on armor or shields;
The rhino has no place to probe with its horn;
The tiger finds no place to put its claws.
And weapons find no place to hold their blades.
Now, why is this so?

Because there is no place for death in them."

-Te- (wisdom)

JT

bob,

I believe you are on to something with how to pray… I think it’s something that is a very eastern ideal, the idea of being… quiet.

In the rest of the world the quiet are trampled upon, put upon, and such behaviour is discouraged from childhood… The goal it would seem is to make as much noise as possible and to gather as much attention as possible.

It’s ironic that we are most human when we are not alone, and not quiet and the most spiritual when we are alone and when we are quiet.

is it possible to have a balance between the two?

I think alot of the lack of silence has to do with, the simple fact that people don’t like what the “voice” is telling them.

Hi JT,

Exactly, that is why many Pastors keep the songs of thank in their funeral service, although mourners are still lamenting the inevitable. The people we love are a short lived blessing, but after all a blessing, a gift.

That is also the secret of the drama between Jesus and Peter, when Jesus is telling him how he will die, Peter rebukes him. Jesus then says to him: “Get thee behind me Satan!” Peter is a manifestation of the Tempter. But Jesus lives his life with the assurance that “there is no place for death” in him.

Hi scythekain,

it sounds eastern doesn’t it. But that is because true Spirituality has no denomination.

Shalom
Bob

Hi Bob,

Yes I experience prayer in much the same way and although I have time aside that I do nothing but pray, sometimes I find that my mind is full of chatter and at other times it is still – receptive – I also find that the quiet receptive prayer overflows into other areas of my life – when my heart is in tune with Heaven’s heart and my actions are at one. I have learned that prayer is a moment to moment experience and that that true prayer for me is when I am walking, eating, moving or unmoving in this receptive silence. Then the channel is open and my mind becomes aligned with truth. I believe that when this channel is open then there is no longer a need for prayer as every moment is a prayerfulness.

A

Hi Liquidangel,

Meister Eckhardt spoke of the divine silence into which a “concealed word” from above enters. The divine silence is obtained when the senses no longer fill our soul with images, and the imageless communion of the spirit can take place. For the great Mystery has no image and a soul preoccupied with images cannot enter into such communion.

I think that the mourning are confronted with such an emptiness sometimes, they stand in a barren place, robbed of the one image that accompanied them through life, and it is there that sentience can have us looking for the source of that ‘concealed word’ that we have heard. The emptiness becomes filled, but without the images of this world, and what we hear or see needs metaphors.

Yes, with practise we can attain that state, but it generally means we move towards seclusion - either alone or in a crowd. If we are amongst people, we are not present, but moved in our mind to a place of waiting. I have used this state to overcome pain at times (I used to have a fear of Dentists, but I don’t any more since I can fall into this state at will). It is probably a state of trance, but that state isn’t the revelation, but just the state of receptivity.

Shalom
Bob

well said.
:slight_smile:

I really think that’s where the fear of death comes from, and that’s really what your friend fears. By letting people near him during this dark hour, he acknowledges that he is going to die and that is the most painful thing any of us can face. by remaining alone he can deny it till the final hour, and die alone never facing it… If you think about we really have two levels of maturity.

A mental level where some of reach full mental maturity by age 26…

and a spiritual state that very few of us ever reach… and even when we think we are there, it takes very little to push us away from it. (meaning we weren’t really there.)

-MB