January 13, 2021
Death, The Great Teacher
By Kathryn Solie
When I wrote my previous Ritual Cravt article on the topic of death, I had no idea that by the time it came around to write my next, my beloved dog would have passed on.
While I’m probably more comfortable with death than many in our society, all of my trainings paled in comparison to the actual experience of his loss. I both was and wasn’t surprised by how bowled over I was by the experience. And although I know that pets are family members whose deaths are societally undervalued as impactful life events, I also know that when the time comes to lose my parents, or my partner, or my closest friends, the grief will likely be much greater. The power of this grief further cemented my belief in the importance of recognizing, contemplating, and doing processing work around death & dying – before, during, and after the experience of loss. One of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves and our loved ones is taking steps towards accepting and embodying this universal experience of death/change that truly awaits us all. It’s clear to me this is a lifelong practice and much more than an ideological crutch of “death optimism”.
The following are some thoughts I wrote down while in the midst of my recent period of grief.
Death is the greatest of all teachers. None can escape its impact. We can hide from it or open to it.
Death invites us to move slowly – so much more slowly than we’re accustomed to.
Deaths invites us to act from integrity and presence.
Death invites us to speak the truth.
Death invites us to listen to the soft song of the moment. That moment that tells us everything we need to hear.
Death invites us to acknowledge the preciousness of life. The beauty of it all.
Each hair on our beloveds head, every rain drop, every inhalation & exhalation – life becomes the temple.
The white noise of the refrigerator, the sound of cars driving by our window, even those never ending beeps from our devices become the mantra, the icaros, the sacred choir.
The depth in each moment becomes glaringly, gloriously obvious. How could we have ignored it all this time?
The more we resist the unwanted feelings death triggers in us, the more we long to hold onto the world we’ve known, the more we push away what wants to naturally occur – the more we inevitably suffer and miss opportunities to embody an emotionally transformative process.
These processes make way for true contemplation of death.
The sooner we begin to contemplate death, the sooner we can contemplate life. For what is it to live without the knowledge that this life will someday end?
We could in truth say that each moment is like a little practice death. Each and every point in time is fleeting. As Heraclitus said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
The more we acknowledge death while we live, the more prepared we’ll be when the time comes for our loved ones and our own selves. And what is this preparation but opening to life?