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Death Connects Us To Life

--by Somik Raha (May 14, 2018)


Growing up with monastic teachings around the impermanence of life, I got the opportunity to apply them when my grandmother passed on, followed by my grandfather in quick succession. I told myself that it was only the body that had died. Their souls were eternal and therefore, there was nothing to grieve for.

Only years later would I realize that I had short-circuited my feelings of love toward my grandparents. That I had to allow those feelings to find their expression in an authentic way. By not giving myself that space, I had numbed myself to my own feelings.

It would take many years of heavy lifting for me to realize that death connects us to life. Our own life. It is an opportunity not just to remember the impermanence of our lives and reflect on our purpose of living. It is also an opportunity to feel the well-spring of love and gratitude in its fullness through the process of grieving.

Perhaps it is for this reason that ancient cultures prescribed a cessation of normal work for a period of time that was proportional to the depth of our relationship with the departed one. In this time, we would receive the full support of our communities in creating a space where we could safely connect to the fullness of our feelings. We were thus allowed an opportunity to get to true acceptance, and not just intellectual acceptance of the transition of our loved one. 

A sign of the kind of acceptance we have arrived at is whether we are feeling wholeness or fragmentation by the loss. Wholeness comes from true acceptance of every feeling that emerges within us in relation to the one who is no longer with us. Fragmentation is what results when we are afraid to feel the sadness that has resulted from the departure. Fragmentation traps us into searching for that love in every space except where it can be truly found -- in our own hearts.

Wholeness, on the other hand, allows us to absorb the essence of the love we felt for the departed one and make it a permanent part of our being. That absorption frees us from fearing our feelings and roots us in joy and gratitude for having been touched, however briefly, by another life.

by Somik Raha.

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16 Previous Reflections:

 
On May 17, 2018 Somik Raha wrote:

After attending the circle at Santa Clara on this topic last night, I came away with a feeling of wonder. What if the circle is actually its own entity? We may be listening to each member of the circle when they share with words or stillness, but what if we are really listening to the circle? The circle felt beautifully complete, with deep sharings, exploration of edges, and counterpoints. If the circle were a person, that would be one heck of a wise person! And how beautiful that one cannot listen to a circle without also deeply listening to the individual. And how doubly beautiful that this circle can only emerge as a result of a process, and can never be replicated in the same way again! 

Reading the comments here, I feel that our circle wasn't limited to just one physical space - every one of the commenters here are part of a bigger circle, and we are literally dotting the circle that is the shape of our planet. Thank you for making this possible.



On May 17, 2018 Barbara Jean Yankee wrote:

 Thank you for sharing this wisdom. It states it so well - when we short cut our grieving, we short cut life.



On May 15, 2018 Always wrote:

 In response to the last "seed question" given:  What helps me not to be wrecked by grief stems from God  ... As in scripture. Responsorial Psalm Ps 68:10-11, 20-21   R. (33a) Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth. A bountiful rain you showered down, O God, upon your inheritance; you restored the land when it languished; Your flock settled in it; in your goodness, O God, you provided it for the needy. R. Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth. Blessed day by day be the Lord, who bears our burdens; God, who is our salvation. God is a saving God for us; the LORD, my Lord, controls the passageways of death.  R. Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth. Everyday I grieve.  This world IS NOT my Home.  I have NO control over my next moment ... And so I have to fill my void with the One Who does!   Faith, Hope and Love in/of God satisfies like no one/thing else.  Life to Death and back again ... Jesus keeps us connected.    See full.

 In response to the last "seed question" given:  What helps me not to be wrecked by grief stems from God  ... As in scripture.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 68:10-11, 20-21

 
R. (33a) Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth.
A bountiful rain you showered down, O God, upon your inheritance;
you restored the land when it languished;
Your flock settled in it;
in your goodness, O God, you provided it for the needy.
R. Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth.
Blessed day by day be the Lord,
who bears our burdens; God, who is our salvation.
God is a saving God for us;
the LORD, my Lord, controls the passageways of death. 
R. Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth.

Everyday I grieve.  This world IS NOT my Home.  I have NO control over my next moment ... And so I have to fill my void with the One Who does!  
Faith, Hope and Love in/of God satisfies like no one/thing else.  Life to Death and back again ... Jesus keeps us connected.  
 
 

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On May 15, 2018 Shivani wrote:

Thank you Somik for writing and sharing your feelings.For a very long time, I couldn't think of my Grandma without crying and immense regret. And my heart would be so heavy and constricted. Now, I can still miss her but I am more understanding and accepting of my feelings.   I used to worry about losing some friends who are older than me, and in the natural order, would probably leave the world before I do. Now I treasure them and give thanks for their presence in my life and try to learn and incorporate what they are offering me.   To accept the fragility of life and the endurance of love has been a lesson for me.  See full.

Thank you Somik for writing and sharing your feelings.

For a very long time, I couldn't think of my Grandma without crying and immense regret.

And my heart would be so heavy and constricted.
Now, I can still miss her but I am more understanding and accepting of my feelings.
 
I used to worry about losing some friends who are older than me, and in the natural order, would probably leave the world before I do. Now I treasure them and give thanks for their presence in my life and try to learn and incorporate what they are offering me.
 
To accept the fragility of life and the endurance of love has been a lesson for me.

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On May 15, 2018 Maretta Jeuland wrote:
 Beautiful statement and description! I feel it....
 

On May 15, 2018 Deepak wrote:

 My mother is suffering from dementia and she is at the last stage of the didease . She cannot recognize anyone even her own children and is totally bedridden . The doctors have given up . She is totally silent , however her eyes reflect her pain ans suffering she is going through . There is total acxceptance of her condition and a silent prayer to  God to ease her suffering by letting her move on to the next phase of her journey . . The emptyness within is there , however would like she passes away peacefully with her suffering cut short .



On May 15, 2018 Kaylyn wrote:

 I appreciate the authors reflections as the respondents.  I work in Hospice and enjoy reading different reflections of death and dying.  



On May 15, 2018 Po wrote:

 Dear Somik, Beautiful reflections. We have held this question several times in the last couple years. What really is death? My search eased a bit when 'Katho-Upanis, had' shed some light. In this very poetic exchange between Nachiket a young boy and 'Yama' the lord of death, Yama asks some very crucial questions? When you see a seed and plant it in a ground, the seed grows into a small plant. What then happens to the seed? Similarly, when the small plant grows into a huge tree, what happens to that plant? When the plant starts having Flowers, where does that come from? When flowers give way to a fruit, what happens to that flower? Do they all die to something or is it transmutation of energy from one form to another? With that Yama leaves Nachiket holding that question for a deeper inquiry.  As you rightly said in the last para, What are we absorbing that frees us from all that feeling and roots us in Truth, resulting in Joy and Gratitude for our existence? Thank you.  See full.

 Dear Somik, Beautiful reflections. We have held this question several times in the last couple years. What really is death? My search eased a bit when 'Katho-Upanis, had' shed some light. In this very poetic exchange between Nachiket a young boy and 'Yama' the lord of death, Yama asks some very crucial questions? When you see a seed and plant it in a ground, the seed grows into a small plant. What then happens to the seed? Similarly, when the small plant grows into a huge tree, what happens to that plant? When the plant starts having Flowers, where does that come from? When flowers give way to a fruit, what happens to that flower? Do they all die to something or is it transmutation of energy from one form to another? With that Yama leaves Nachiket holding that question for a deeper inquiry. 

As you rightly said in the last para, What are we absorbing that frees us from all that feeling and roots us in Truth, resulting in Joy and Gratitude for our existence? Thank you.

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On May 14, 2018 Joao Perre Viana wrote:

 Thank you Samik! I have been mourning for 10 years the death of a loved one and your words helped me to understand that it is time to enjoy wholeness and the joy of all the love I received from my Mom.



On May 14, 2018 Jean Yao wrote:

Dear Somik, Just the day before, I lost a dear friend of mine from Ireland. This piece came to me near and dear. With enormous gratitude. Jean



On May 13, 2018 sheetal wrote:

 Thank you for the passage. This was need of the hour. We witnessed a very celebrated death of my mother in law very recently. She was diagnosed of sudden cancer and she decided no to treatment. She said we would do prayer circles at home and she would love to meet her loved ones. In a month's time she passed away, the whole month we celebrated each and every day. There was so much joy. And when we would discuss death with her and say "Mom we will miss you" she would reply saying " you are still attached to the body"!!. We cried and laughed together before she passed away. No mourning after that. We lived each feeling fully with her. I think that's what taught us to deal with her passing away with ease. We learnt that no death is "untimely" since we think linear we feel that way but its nature's way, we are all sitting with boarding pass, not knowing when the flight will take off.



1 reply: Kaylyn | Post Your Reply
On May 11, 2018 Jagdish P Dave wrote:

How to live life fully is a challenge for all of us. How to  accept  fully and trully the departure of someone we love is also a challenge for us. When a child is born, we celebrate the arrival of the child and celelbrate her birthday. And when that child passes away we feel sadness and grief in our heart. We need to give space in our heart to truly and fully accept our sadness and grieving. It takes time  and support of our loved ones to go through grieving. This process allows us to get the true acceptance for the transistion of our loved ones. I have gone this process several times when all the mebers of my family and my dear good old friends passed away. Knowing intellectually the impermanace of  life was not enough for me. I needed to go through the process of fully grieving, putting my head on the shoulders of my family members and friends and letting my self cry heped me to truly accept their passing away. I needed that space within me to expereince my sadne  See full.

How to live life fully is a challenge for all of us. How to  accept  fully and trully the departure of someone we love is also a challenge for us. When a child is born, we celebrate the arrival of the child and celelbrate her birthday. And when that child passes away we feel sadness and grief in our heart. We need to give space in our heart to truly and fully accept our sadness and grieving. It takes time  and support of our loved ones to go through grieving. This process allows us to get the true acceptance for the transistion of our loved ones.

I have gone this process several times when all the mebers of my family and my dear good old friends passed away. Knowing intellectually the impermanace of  life was not enough for me. I needed to go through the process of fully grieving, putting my head on the shoulders of my family members and friends and letting my self cry heped me to truly accept their passing away. I needed that space within me to expereince my sadness fully and feel lheir love and blessings and my love and gratitude for them. The last loss in my life, the passing away of my wife, was a very difficult expeirence for me to go through grieving. Fully and truly accepting my sadness has helped me to live my life fully. 

Life is a gift and death is a gift. Light is a gift and darkness is a gift. To see the light fully I need to see the darkness fully.

Namaste!
Jagdish P Dave

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1 reply: AJ | Post Your Reply
On May 11, 2018 david doane wrote:

 Yes, the soul is eternal and continues to be present, and death of the body and loss of the physical presence is still a significant death and loss.  It is my experience that grieving creates a space for safely connecting to one's feelings.  When my father died, I sobbed like I hadn't sobbed since I was a child or maybe ever.  I was aware as I was sobbing that I was sobbing, that I was letting myself sob, that it was coming from a deep place within me, that it felt good, and that I was sobbing not ony about my father's death but also about a lot of things for which I had never let my self sob.  My sobbing was emptying and cleansing.  It was an expression of my grieving fully and authentically, and in it I did find wholeness and joy.  I didn't feel wrecked by my grief and sobbing but felt wide open and more together and whole as I was accepting and allowing and feeling my grief and sobbing.  My father died 23 years ago and the experience is stil  See full.

 Yes, the soul is eternal and continues to be present, and death of the body and loss of the physical presence is still a significant death and loss.  It is my experience that grieving creates a space for safely connecting to one's feelings.  When my father died, I sobbed like I hadn't sobbed since I was a child or maybe ever.  I was aware as I was sobbing that I was sobbing, that I was letting myself sob, that it was coming from a deep place within me, that it felt good, and that I was sobbing not ony about my father's death but also about a lot of things for which I had never let my self sob.  My sobbing was emptying and cleansing.  It was an expression of my grieving fully and authentically, and in it I did find wholeness and joy.  I didn't feel wrecked by my grief and sobbing but felt wide open and more together and whole as I was accepting and allowing and feeling my grief and sobbing.  My father died 23 years ago and the experience is still  clear and present in me. 

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