As well as the Original Fire, there is all around us, death. I know this on some level – at every second there are countless minute creatures dying within (literally) my sphere and all around me. I, like most of us do not notice these deaths, but will notice the cat on the road or the death of human. And sometimes, death impinges upon us in a big way. For me, this is one of those times.
Recently everywhere I turn I am seeing death. I have just come from a funeral and a little while back learnt of the death of two other people, and though they were not close to me (any more) their deaths have taught me much.
Dr Ray James was the best boss I ever had. He was a wonderful man, full of compassion, energy, drive and presence. One of the most significant figures in the health promotion community in Australia, he acted as mentor to hundreds and always had time for anyone. In countless ways Ray benefited the Australian community through the projects he initiated and supported. As a country we all moved closer to health by his actions. He will be sorely and severely missed by many.
Ray’s death underscored a core truth for me, dying quickly from an aggressive tumour while being one of the healthiest, fittest people I have ever met. My old friend Vivienne Elanta died in a similar way, very quickly. Death can come to any of us, at any time, in any way. I need to remember that, and my RR et AC and Buddhist traditions help me in this.
The other death was that of an old school friend, the first person I ever had a crush on, Sarah. Though I had not seen her for many years, the news of her death shocked me. She died aged 41 with three children. Since Sarah was a significant part of my life when I was developing my adult persona, I think subconsciously, at some level, I expected her always ‘to be there’. This is despite having no contact with her for years. She was somehow woven into the tapestry of my self.
When I think about her death I wish now, obviously, I had maintained some contact. I think also of how she managed the transition to the Other Country and wish I could have been there, helping her with the techniques and skills of the western death traditions I am trained in. Regret is the sister of death and this has spurred me further to develop my death work.
Though I am sure my attraction to Sarah as a teenager was nothing stronger than a teenage crush, it was, like all attractions, a form of love. Love and desire, so the Sufi’s tell us, are pathways back to the One. Love is the only “answer” to death, the only thing that makes sense of the suffering, loss and pain death inevitably brings and a good death is the greatest act of love I know. As the Song of Songs says:
Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm
For Love is as strong as death.