A life dedicated to service...

Week 17: Allowing death in

A group of people is connected through meditation and cancer. Some of us have known nach other for more than 4 years, some longer. For many, their cancer’s into remission — leaving them with FOR: fear of remission — some valiantly continue various modes of treatment, while others have drifted out of sight. Several have died: one a month ago, another just last night. As her last breath approached, a message went around, suggesting we listen to music she’d loved. In this way we were linked, each alone yet near each other.

How do we mourn? How does one open to pain and not-knowing? In times past, tribal communities would have gathered, religious persons lead us in prayer, skilled men or women performed age-old rites — leaving others to just be, safe to immerse themselves in anguish. But what of this contemporary world, where talking about dying is frowned upon and many are unprepared for Death’s knock at the door.

When is a good time to get ready? Right now, I’d say, while the heart is raw (or complacent, depending on your state this day). Nothing fancy, no need to find a death café, or wait to attend someone’s ‘celebration of life’. Begin right here, right now, by yourselves.

Here are some ideas on how to proceed. Prepare a comfortable chair or cushion, light a candle, maybe incense; place a loved-one’s picture next to it, a flower and soothing music, creating your very own ritual. No cell phone, no expectations, no agenda. Place the palm of one hand (or both) over your heart space and feel what’s there to feel. Even ‘nothing’ is a feeling state. After a while, if you wish, inquire most lovingly: How are you? Where does it hurt? What am I afraid of? What do I wish for?

Kahlil Gibran’s words come to mind. “Tell us about death,” someone had asked the Prophet and he spoke —

You would know the secret of death.
But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one. (click for more)

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About the Author
Peter lives in Victoria, BC, where he volunteers in health-care. teaches mindfulness meditation, and offers end-of-life care.
  1. Nigel Reply

    My dear companion, we will all prepare or not in different ways, all appropriate or not of course. This morning I spent meditative time in three extraordinary tombs in the Valley of the Kings in ancient Thebes.The Pharaohs perhaps overdid the rituals. Then along came the Greeks, Romans, early Christians, Muslims and all destroyed the works ‘of the mighty’. Impermanence is our fate even in the afterlife! With love and gratitude, Nigel

  2. Kim Reply

    Very timely, Peter. My dad made his journey in March, now my mom is at comfort care stage now. These words are very helpful. Thank you.

  3. Walter Reply

    Peter – I appreciate everyone who played the song as our friend was dying. She smiled when I played it to her while I was holding her hand. She is truly in a beautiful place and has arrived. Personal experience you are very correct as there is no ‘correct’ way to mourn as it truly depends on ‘your state of the day’. Bless you and everyone.

  4. Fran Reply

    Now isn’t that wonderful! Contemplating this very aspect of loss and death and here arrives this lovely suggestion in your blog. The music […] was magical. I discovered more of that singer’s music.

  5. Susan Reply

    Thankyou Peter and everyone, especially Walter – the experience with the music and love was quite beautiful.

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