My boyfriend broke his neck when he was 19. Before he went under the knife, he was asked to sign a do-not-resuscitate order in case the operation failed. He was not religious. For him, like many, God was a tainted word. In that moment, pen in hand, facing his own death, he recalled some music by the Grateful Dead. He felt peace when he remembered that music and put his faith in that. Then he signed.
The story of my boyfriend’s accident is devastating to me, all except that part. That moment when he was able to accept his death peacefully. To this day, he does not fear death. That is a great gift.
I, on the other hand, worry about my impending death and the death of my loved ones all the time. Over the years, I have managed to work myself into quite the tizzy. Sometimes I wonder how I will make it through the day, assaulted as I am by images of everything from car accidents to spontaneous combustion.
I have read books about death and meditated on death a lot. Indeed, my spiritual searching was often fueled by a fear of death. Death meditations and inspirational literature provided some measure of comfort, but then, three years ago, I had the dream and it’s been down hill ever since.
“Tell them about the drrream…” says Mr. Octopus.
Ok. First, I want to say that my dear teacher and friend, Ken, says that there are three types of dream. The first and most common is a dream that is a normal processing of life’s daily events. For instance, my car is dying, speaking of death, and I dreamt the other night that I was driving upside down and couldn’t get the car to right itself. That’s an example of the first kind of dream.
The second kind of dream is a message from spirit. I have these dreams less frequently and recognize them by their powerful emotional impact. For instance, in one of these dreams I may connect with the spirit of a loved one who has passed.
The third kind of dream is a premonition.
“Have you had one of those?” asks Mr. Octopus.
“Ay, there’s the rub.”
Three years ago, I had a dream that I was being told that I would die at the age of 50 from stomach cancer and that it would be very painful. Ever since then, it’s like my fear of death has mounted me. I can’t really shake it with any amount of meditation. It wakes me up sometimes in the middle of the night. Now, I have always suspected that great emotions, if you are able to allow yourself to have them, to really sit with them, leave a gift behind. At least that has been my experience and my way of working with things like sorrow, jealousy and anger, but this fear of death thing was unshakeable.
Nevertheless, I tried my best not to run away when it came up and yesterday it came up. And what do you know? I had a little break-through.
Well, I was taking a shower and the panic came up accompanied by a sense of defeat. I was just so tired of always being afraid. You see, I’d always imagined that death would be agonizing, like every cell in your body exploding, like being burned alive, a great force that moved through your whole being and shattered you in a flash of ultimate and exquisite pain.
Yeah. So there I was in the shower with the usual death-fear blossoming in my chest, imagining every cell exploding, brains on the carpet, eye balls poppin’ out, when I had a thought. A new thought. A small voice spoke.
“What did it say?”
It was so small and clear. I don’t know where it came from and I don’t know why I couldn’t have heard it until now. Couldn’t have accepted it until now. I’d spent so much time considering every possible gruesome way to die, for my loved ones to die. But after I heard this new thing, something changed. I thought that maybe death wasn’t to be consumed by pain. It was to be consumed by, by, how can I say it, infinite yumminess. A light, a love, so wondrous as to be unnameable. I know that’s not a new idea. It was just new for me.
“What did the voice say?”
I was suddenly delighted standing there in the shower. Every thing now seemed possible. Love seemed possible. Pain seemed possible. Even death. Why hadn’t I ever considered that before? Sure, I still didn’t know what death was, but somehow, that new thought, that quiet voice, felt more right than any fear I’d ever had.
“WHAT THE FUCK DID IT SAY?” shouts Mr. Octopus. He rarely ever shouts.
“You rarely ever shout,” I say, somewhat stunned out of my reverie.
“Tell me what it said or I will sit on your head.”
“No. I can’t say it. You won’t understand.”
“Herrre I come.”
“Ok! OK! Get off my fucking head!”
“Tell me what it said first!”
“Stop strangling me!”
It said, so simply,
God loves you.
Imagine my surprise.
Especially considering that the part of me that receives love was broken some time ago. Do-not-resuscitate. Well, I guess not completely broken. This voice, so simple, so quiet. I heard it clear. In my heart. And the accompanying thought of death-as-infinite-yumminess was not like an intellectualization. It was something that I felt, I heard, also in my heart.
“Fine. Just don’t ring my doorbell on Sunday mornings, talking about God.”
“Funny. That’s the thing. I hardly ever use that word.”
“Well. Happy Thanksgiving.”