Deepening Change, Chapter Six, Life, Death & Change
by Melissa Martin 11/25/2011 / Christian Living
Every person is a story and has a story; narratives composed of happenings and memories in seconds, minutes, hours, weeks, months, years. Moments that blend in and moments that stand out. What happens between birth and death is my unique story and yours as well. The meanings of our stories shift, alter, and change based on the transformation of our cognitive belief systems, attitudes, experiences, and so forth. The stories we live by contain our essence.
The Dance of Life
We are only given a short time to dance upon the earth. Some spend their dance wrapped in financial worries and difficulties; some escape into the dance of alcohol, drugs, gambling, shopping, sexual escapades; some chase fame and fortune; some chase power and prestige; some chase education and knowledge; some chase enlightenment and wisdom; some spend their dance discovering cures for human suffering; some dance with politics and war; some dance with families and children; some dance with disabilities; some boogie with technology; some ballet alone; some chase astrology and aliens; some dance with religion; some dance with travel; some dance in their own backyards without exploring; some die at birth and do not have the opportunity of an earthly dance; some dance with the poor and some dance with the rich; some dance with the young and some dance with the old; some end the dance with suicide; some dance to the tune of homicide; some chase beauty and thinness; some dance with food and obesity; some dance with the environment and nature; some dance in the city; some change partners in the dance; some dance with their culture; some dance with discrimination and hatred; some dance with compassion for humanity; some dance with freedom while others dance in chains; some dance with music and art; some dance in silence, some dance with books and words; some dance with animals; some dance in a wheelchair; some dance with greed; some dance with fear; some chase an adrenaline high; some chase ghosts; some dance in the past and forsake the present; some dance with mental illness; some dance to their own rhyme and rhythm; some dance to the tune of others; some stumble in the dance and some are resilient; some dance with pain and some dance with pleasure; some dance with kindness; some dance with guilt and unforgiveness; some dance with flowers and others dance with weeds; some dance with a hardened heart while other dance with a soft heart: some dance with gratitude while others shake their fists at heaven; some dance with a wounded soul; some dance with joy and laughter; some dance with tears and tragedy; some dance with dreams; some dance as victims while others dance as survivors; some dance by choice and some dance by force; some dance with democracy and some dance with communism; some dance with angels and some dance with demons.
The dance of life is a circle that ebbs and flows with repeated lessons of learning. The dance steps are never quite mastered. Some waltz while others hip-hop. The dance is not black or white but shades of grey. The dance is paradoxical, complex, and surreal. The dance is enchanting and awe-inspiring. The dance is us and we are the dance. Sometimes the dance of life slips by us in our youth and old age causes us to ponder and reevaluate our priorities. Some dance with regret and some dance with precious memories. Our earthly dance is only for a brief time. How do you dance?
The Dance of Death
Physical death to spiritual life; the end of a beginning and the beginning of an end. Death, unknown territory; the final frontier. Throughout the history of civilization, people have created an afterlife. Religious and nonreligious groups find meaning in death and the realm beyond the grave. As flesh and bone return to earthly elements, another dimension opens as the ashes blow away. Depending upon the viewpoint, theology, opinion, belief, and the second the heart stops beating, the person's spirit/soul/essence travels elsewhere. Individuals cannot fathom death as the end of existence.
I, too, find the belief in a heaven comforting and soothing. I do not fear death at this point in my life but I fear the leaving behind of loved ones who will struggle, question, and grieve. I believe I've made peace with the issue of death. The cycle of life continues, however, death from old age still evokes emotion as we ponder the unknown.
I do not prefer a traditional funeral with a preacher in a hushed funeral home or an open casket. I would like family, friends, and acquaintances to gather and sing Amazing Grace and scatter my cremated ashes over a body of water (not a mud puddle). No headstone or holiday visiting of a pile of dirt; I am not there. Of course, I expect loved ones to grieve, as it is the natural and necessary way to process emotions and events.
Ah, I will be in the other dimension with deceased grandparents, relatives, friends, and familiar strangers experiencing a hullabaloo. Albeit, I will be alive in your memories and stories. I am alive in your genetic DNA coding.
Yes, I am aware that cemeteries serve a purpose for the living; a sacred place to honor the dead with tears and flowers. If I had a tombstone, I would want it to read: Out to Lunch, On Spring Break, Buckle Up, or Are We There Yet?
Prior to my burial/cremation please note that I am an organ donor (see my driver's license). I would be ecstatic if a person's life was extended due to my body parts. In the same vein, instead of buying flowers, please donate the money to the St. Jude's Children Hospital.
Premature death is a reality and we think we are exempt. If ever I should be stuck in a vegetative coma, please pull the plug and release my spirit. Hopefully, I will live until the senior years, but if not, then I am ready for heaven. Dwelling and becoming fixated on death is not what I am suggesting. Balance is my philosophy. Two of the most important events, birth and death, need to be explored, accepted, and discussed.
Write a deep heart-felt story about your life. Describe your life in feelings. Share it with your spouse or partner.
Go outside and play in the next warm summer rainstorm (rain without thunder or lightning). Splash in mud puddles. Lift your face to the clouds. Invite your children or grandchildren to join you.
Make a list of 20 things for which you are grateful. Then add 20 more things to the list. Add 5 things to the list daily for 30 days. Review the list on New Year's Day of every year.
Read a book by Erma Bombeck and laugh and laugh some more.
Make a list of things you want to do before you die. Live in the present moment but make plans for a future.
Make or update your last Will and Testament and write your desires for your funeral. Write individual cards for each relative and friend and put these with your important papers. Create a time capsule for your grandchildren by using a metal box with a lock and key. Fill it with stories about your childhood, photographs, home videos, favorite items, and keepsakes.
Walk through a cemetery and read the headstones.
Ask sincere forgiveness of those you've hurt or harmed in the past unless doing so would cause more pain. Make peace with your enemies if possible and plausible. Sometimes forgiving our perpetrators is for our healing alone and sometimes it's for their healing as well.
Consider volunteer work at your local Hospice organization or AIDS association.
Consider what happens to the water in a cup when a drop is removed.
Melissa writes about the God and human connection and condition.