Don’t Lament Death, Watch Your Step

Yao Xiang Shakya

Yao Xiang Shakya

Last week I was asked to speak at a memorial service for one of the members of our small community here. It was a talk for a woman who had many friends, friends that supported her at the end of her life with daily phone calls, body massage, meals delivered…friends that helped her manage and navigate the medical system…with appointments and medications, with surgery and rehab, from diagnosis through treatment and prognosis. Helping her every step of the way… from the first, unexpected fall in her backyard to her last breath.

In the middle of a heavy duty diagnosis…in the middle of the hard work of dying…this woman gave her dog away, arranged schedules for others to visit her, managed her bill paying, transportation to and from doctor visits and hospital; ate chocolate, drank coffee, complained, laughed, argued, cried and talked on the phone and let others see her in the most vulnerable situations. She allowed others to see her body diminish, her feelings come and go, her impulses push and pull, her dreams disappear until her consciousness ended and her breath returned to the One.

Life goes on…even though she knew she was dying…the material world, the everyday world made demands on her…even though she knew she was dying. Perhaps the BIG difference between her and us is in awareness. She did not lament death, she watched her step. As her body weakened, she began to know she was dying while her life continued. She was given a glimpse into what we often ignore. She began to know firsthand the material world makes demands on us in the middle of our dying.

She hit the jackpot. Her diagnosis gave her the treasure of time and awareness to know she was dying. She could tie up loose ends, make amends and let others love her.

Early on she told me “I am not afraid to die, I am afraid to suffer.” Her words suggest a real and present insight into the human condition, into her human condition, into our human condition.

We all are going to die and we don’t want to suffer. We are all going to die and life continues to make demands on us even though we are dying. It’s no use lamenting death. It’s still required we watch our next step.

We all are faced with this condition, but not all of us are aware of it.

When someone we know, someone we admire and respect, someone we care about dies we are given a small pot of gold. The death is a small glimmer into our human condition. It is a reminder, another chance to reflect on where we are and what is going on here.

As all things come to awaken us, death comes to awaken us.

We can’t stop death. We continue to respond to life as it comes. We do our very best knowing we are going to die. We meet the demands of our life in every circumstance. We remember this earth is a temporary situation for each one of us. It’s not a time to mourn, but a time to remember and awaken.

In the face of loss, we are given another chance to see close-up where we are.  It’s a time to see clearly, to know directly what it means to let go, to relinquish everything, to see the impermanence of the material world and to know the insubstantial nature of the human condition.

Don’t lament death. It comes to awaken. Don’t take life too seriously. Do your best, your very best knowing you are going to die. Take the pot off your head and see for yourself what’s the next step.