The Other I

April 22, 2011

My Good Friday reverie

Along with all the theology and immensely rich ritual of Holy Week and Easter, death came to our door as I was growing up rather often during this season.  So even today, Good Friday has a frisson for me that few other days of the year elicit.

Which is probably why I’ve been thinking today about my own death.  It seems that however much I think and talk about the certainty of dying, when that moment comes, I am going to be profoundly shocked.  When the doctors say “there is nothing more we can do,” or in whatever version the new dawn announces itself, I am not, somehow yet prepared for it.

Giving up the fear of hell that was so deeply instilled in our Catholic socialization in itself is no help.  It is the thought of me no longer being here, me no longer adding my two cents worth to life, that seems so unbelievable.

So I’ve been looking closely at the life of other living things.  I am, after all, a part of this great, marvellous, beautiful system that includes trees and flowers, spiders and cats, dogs and birds and squirrels, and the clucking hens our neighbours have just brought home on the other side of our garden fence.

Part of the beauty of this life for every single living thing is being born, is living and growing, and then being finished.  It is dying, often with great beauty and grace.  One can see the age in trees and dogs just as one sees it on the faces and the studied walk of my fellow elderly humans.

Age is beautiful, notwithstanding the unrelenting advertising of Botox and cosmetics suggesting that it is to be feared and banished from consciousness.

So on this Good Friday, I am trying to remember that age isn’t just the price of life.  Age in itself is beautiful.

If I trust life, if my only faith is that existence is somehow worth it whatever the cost, then I must trust that death is somehow right too.  It is not the outrage that I have so often thought.  It’s not a punishment for sin, whatever Adam and Eve thought.

Which is why I’m trying to get my head around what life means.  I want to be able to embrace my death when the time comes.  As somehow, in some inexplicable way, it is part of the gift of life, not just its price.

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6 Comments »

  1. Thanks for this lovely and worthwhile meditation today. If you figure out the meaning of life, by all means, please write a post about it!

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    Comment by Chris — April 22, 2011 @ 2:21 pm | Reply

    • Oh, I will, I will! Unfortunately, if I am ever in the position of thinking I’ve figured it out, I suspect I will either be in my grave, or stark raving mad. In the meantime, like the rest of the human race, I live in mystery. Though I am getting to like the condition a lot more than I used to.

      Thank *you*, too.

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      Comment by theotheri — April 22, 2011 @ 3:19 pm | Reply

  2. Thanks for your great reflection “Good Friday reverie,” an auspicious entry to begin to comment [since I just learned how to do it]! I have been pondering my personal death for many years now. At times I feel completely ready, even joyful about the next adventure: death. Sometimes I feel sad – visualizing any moment in my life and removing my presence in it. Such moments will continue in the lives of all my beloved survivors – but without me to share it. That can feel profoundly sad.

    Usually there’s no fear, though, because, like you, beliefs about hell went away long ago.

    Re: my own experience of aging . . . I have never been happier now, age 72. Thankfully, I am in good, strong health. My first grandchild is about to be born. I work for peace ceaselessly. I keep on keeping on – with greater compassion, depth and understanding. I actually experience moments of wisdom albeit rarely! Moments when I feel at peace and at one with all that IS. Years of meditation and my persistent search for accepting “what is so,” what is real, probably promote these moments. The 4 noble truths offered by Buddha help me “get” suffering, its cause, and the path to relieve suffering – for me and for all beings – the path of liberation. A lifelong process. Be well and joyful! I am loving having finally signed on to your blog “the other i.” Always, Delia

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    Comment by 1delia — April 22, 2011 @ 8:29 pm | Reply

    • Delia – I was so delighted to read your comment. Partly because it was just good to hear your point of view, but most especially because it does show how often we can arrive in the same place by different paths. Buddhism is a path for you; I guess I would say that it is science and the world it has opened up for me that is my greatest influence. And yet, here we are, meeting at the same place.

      I was talking to a woman who is 78 years old, a widow with several grown children. Like you, she said that she has never been happier. I would say the same thing. Life just seems like such an incredibly wonderful experience, doesn’t it? no matter the hard times, the confusions, the mistakes. Just to be alive seems utterly fantastic.

      Thank you again. I hope it’s not your last comment.

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      Comment by theotheri — April 23, 2011 @ 3:18 pm | Reply

  3. Your post made me think if Mary Oliver’s poem, When Death Comes. Do you know it? She writes about hoping to look forward to her death as the next great adventure. I love that thought! The poem ends, “I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”

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    Comment by Noreen — April 23, 2011 @ 10:51 pm | Reply

    • I’m not familiar with this particular poem of Mary Oliver. It sounds like I would find it worth while chasing down. There are many Oliver poems of which I am very fond. Thank you for the suggestion. And may today you have the most wonderful of re-born days.

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      Comment by theotheri — April 24, 2011 @ 1:01 pm | Reply


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