Today, I sit on my perch in the kitchen, watching a handful of snow flurries whisk around in the wind to write my first ever post about death and dying. It is a topic that I have somewhat avoided, not because I am afraid of it, but because I have always felt that I have not experienced it well enough to actually speak of it. Right after HS, I had a dear friend commit suicide. I could not go to the funeral. I could not see his family, his girlfriend or even my other friends. I pretended it did not happen. To this day, I do not know where he is buried, though, I have done a number of internet searches, still too scared to ask anyone who was close to him. I never paid my final respects. In college, I had a friend who lost her mother. I could not imagine how she could cope and yet, I watched her just be her. We went out to dinner and watched movies and I sat with her as she teared up recounting stories of her mom. All of this in the same day - she just continued being herself, different yet also the same. In my 20's, I had a friend whose younger brother was sick and I watched him cope - he was angry, he was stressed, he stepped up to make decisions, he checked out, he laughed, he made jokes... all the while he was just himself. A few years ago, I had a childhood friend pass away. I so want to tell you all the story. I feel it was an absolute tragedy; a horrible story that engrosses you. However, I decided long ago to never tell that story again, because then her life becomes about the story of her death and she somehow gets lost. Instead, I will tell you that we spent hours together trying different shades of lip gloss so we could be ready for our first kiss - her with her crush, me with mine. For both of us, our first kisses came much later in life, but at the precious age of 13, we were sure they would happen any minute and we were going to be prepared.
Her death and funeral was a turning point in my life. Up until then, I avoided funerals. In Islam, we have a tradition of going to people's house after someone dies and saying a prayer with the family to offer condolences. I avoided this practice as well. I always thought, if it were me, I would just want to be left alone, not have a bunch of folks (some I barely know) come over and "talk" about the person who just left. It felt like some terrible form of torture. The prayers, yes... but people could do those at home. By the time my friend had passed, I had already immersed myself in a spiritual path and I realized, she is not really gone. Yes, she is gone from the physical world. But, she is not gone. The day I found out, I went to the beach and talked to her spirit as I watched the sunset. The next day, I walked a labyrinth and she spoke to me asking me to do certain things for her at the funeral and I honored her request. I showed up at the funeral as if I was showing up to a party I had been looking forward for for years. I met all her friends, I chatted with everyone, I laughed, I hugged, I cried. I was so present in a way that I have not been present in ages. I was totally present for every moment. When there was an opportunity to see her body, I passed. That was not my friend, that was her outer layer, an outfit she wore. My friend is still with me. I see her all the time as yellow butterfly. When I thought of her a yellow butterfly appeared for quite some time. Shortly after her death, there was another tragedy (for us here on earth) in this story, and I don't see the butterflies anymore. I don't think it is because she is no longer with me, I think it is because she is so fulfilled where she is that she is having too much fun to come visit as much now.
The experience of seeing her entire funeral as such a beautiful, loving, present, spiritual experience, helped me for the loss that was to come. Last year, my Grandmother passed away. I was so happy about it. I really was. She was a bigger-than-life woman who was unable to feed or care for herself in any way. Years earlier, her life had become a day long TV watching on the couch, experience. As long as she was able to go for her daily walk, I knew she was still good. Once that ended, I thought, this is torture. I would have asked God to have mercy on her and end her suffering on earth, except for my mother, who was up until the last moment, so devoted to her. I believe she stayed for my Mom. And, when my Mom (and her other kids) were able to let her go, she transitioned peacefully in her sleep. I was the second person to see her after she passed and my mom joined soon after. She looked so beautiful and at such peace that I had no desire to cry. I had a desire to smile and gratitude came over me. Her funeral was a beautiful tribute to her life and the people who came and their stories were amazing. At no point did I feel sad. I know she is not only with me, but also in me. I wore her wedding earrings at my wedding. She is always right here, there has been no loss for me.
This morning, I spoke to another friend who is experiencing someone they deeply care about in a potential state of transition. I listened and I reassured him there will be no loss. There is no loss in death. Death is not a loss, it is a change. A change in relationship. If you have a partner and then have a child, your relationship with your partner changes. You can say it is a death of one relationship and a birth of a different relationship. I then received a message to share with him and with all of us and I decided to sit down and right. As I have been writing this post, however, I realized something. I spoke of my grandmother, a woman I have known my whole life, who I have millions of memories with, who I lived with for two years in Pakistan, in one paragraph. And, of my friend in pages. And, I know why. It is the same thing that my friend is experiencing now and the purpose of the message. Death is only painful if we see it as a tragedy. To some degree, I still feel like my friend's death was a tragedy. I know it is not. But, I have a little bit inside me that believes it is. I see my grandmother's death as a beautiful healing for all. And, as such, there has been almost no sadness. The transition of someone from their physical form back to their non-physical will only be as tragic as we decide.
I have studied a number of near death experience stories, especially, Anita Moorjani's Dying to Be Me, and I have a deep appreciation of where we go from here. A place of true and everlasting peace. I wish that on every single person I know. I am excited that we all get to experience that one day. And, the only thing that would make me sad to take that trip myself is the impact it would have on those I leave behind. So, as someone who is left behind, it is our choice to say, go and be at peace. And, to do this daily. Not hope that someone is no longer in the physical but to live each moment with each person fully and see them as a whole, complete, loving being, so that if and when the time comes that they need to transition into the non-physical, they know, we are whole with them as they are. The greatest gift we can give ourselves and each other is to see each of us as whole, complete, and full at every moment. To see each person as having lived a true and fulfilling life, at every moment. And, to know that no matter if we physically "see" the person again, they are always with us. I share this message that was given to me with you today.
The greatest gift you can give yourself and those in your life is seeing the person who is transitioning as whole right now. Their body may be experiencing dis-ease but they are still themselves. Their spirit is still intact today as it ever way. It is like when I try to do a cartwheel because I remember doing hundreds in a row as a child, and I wobble or I can only do one or two, and I think how is this possible. The way I see myself is as that child who did hundreds of cartwheels. In this moment, my physical body does not support that but in my mind's eye, I can still do it. It is the same for your loved one. They may be experiencing physical pain and symptoms but in their mind's eye, they are still themselves - whole. Your loved one is perfectly whole right now. If you knew that without a doubt, how would you behave in their presence? What would you talk about? Would you take a break to shower or nap if you needed it, knowing you have plenty of time? We do have plenty of time. They are not going anywhere. They may transition from the physical to the non-physical, but they are still with you always. Your goal is to enjoy your time with the person, not to save them. No one wants to be another's project. Simply be with them as a whole person - you are whole and they are whole. Two whole people coming together in peace and love. Like all of us, your loved one wants to feel loved and to be seen as whole and completed. See them in this way and in the process you will see that you too are whole and complete.
Hi! Welcome to my blog, Lunch with Cinderella. I love writing about my life experiences and the fact that they may help spur some cool experiences of your own. If you are here, leave a comment... I read them all and love hearing from you!
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