On Dying & Death – Notes from the Coffeehouse

So a guy walks into coffeehouse, sits down and says to a fellow coffee drinker, “Blog much?”

No, this isn’t the start of a bad joke, just the way my last outing for coffee went. The guy was nice enough and we got to talking about blogging and the reasons for doing it. He asked if he could read one of my blogs (“just out of curiosity”). So I pointed him at this one –frankly, in the hopes that the fact that I don’t follow a traditional religion would be enough to send him scurrying away and give me a chance to get back to the novel I’d been trying to draft. To which he responded by whipping out his laptop and promptly settling down to read the blog in its entirety. Fortunately for him, it’s only a half dozen entries at this point.

After he finished reading, he made a “hmph” noise and looked at me with a critical eye. I expected some smart remark or biting criticism, but instead he asked the question “If you’re blogging about spirituality, why have you been so focused on the dying and the dead?” He went on to say that he is a Christian (denomination unspecified) and that for him, with the notable exception of where does the soul go, the process of dying and death is not a spiritual concern. If someone dies, it is technically their problem and is of no concern to him on a spiritual level (although his choice of words were considerable more polite and less brutal than mine).

I’m not sure how broadly representative this point of view is, but it jarred me a bit, to be honest. It further disturbed me when a minister who was sitting near us jumped into the conversation and stated that he encouraged his parishioners not to dwell on death itself, as the actual process of dying and death was of no real consequence in the grand scheme of things. He went on to elaborate that one’s relationship with God determines what happens after death and that the transition from life to death is merely a mode of getting from point A (walking around this planet) to point B (the afterlife), just like “taking a bus- nothing to dwell on. It has no particular importance or meaning.” I think my jaw may be still be sitting on the coffee shop floor next to a discarded newspaper.

I admit that I have focused on the dead and dying here, but that’s because it is of spiritual importance to me. I cannot view this transition as having “no real consequence” or liken it to “taking the bus.” This is one of the biggest and least well understood moments in a person’s life. Other than fear of the unknown, I can’t understand why someone suggest that this isn’t a subject worthy of time or consideration.

Mysteries aside, I am blessed with the gift (or hindered with the curse) of drawing people to me who are transitioning between life and death. I don’t know if this particular “talent” is an innate one or what its origins may be; I just know that it has always been with me in some form or another. As an adult, I’ve walked beside more people than I care to remember as they’ve made this journey. If I cannot be there physically with them, I still find that I am with them in my meditations, thoughts, and dreams. I am haunted, literally and figuratively, by those who have not passed directly into whatever world awaits us after this one. Even they ask that I be a witness to what it is they are experiencing.

Ironically, the more I try to avoid “being there” for those who are in transition, the more I am pushed into it by various forces. With Andy, I’d intended to walk away and not become a witness to that transition (as he’d also intended). However, we shared a patron deity and it was She who demanded that I be there for him. It is She who has also demanded that I heal those I can, give comfort to those I cannot, and give aid to those who ask. I did not ask for this geis and did not want it when it was given, but it is one that I will not walk away from. Dying and death is a transition that each of us must face. As long as I am able, I will be there for those I care about when they make that transition, to give them comfort, to give them reassurance, to help them understand that it is not an end, but a birth into another world, to guide them as far as I can. I have been given the gift of understanding what it is to travel between worlds. For me, this is very much a part of who I am as a spiritual being and so, to answer the question posed to me by my fellow coffee drinker and anyone else who might inquire, that is why I blog about it here.

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