Nothing lasts forever;
No one lives forever.
Keep that in mind, and love.*
These words have danced through my head all spring. For the last few months, almost a dozen friends and family have experienced a traumatic, life changing event. Sometimes resulting in death, but more often in an event that will change them forever. Even after “normal” life returns.
Friday afternoon, just as I was finishing a support group call with friends, police car after police car streaked down the street in front of my home. It was an hour before I knew what had happened. During what most expected to be a routine light rail trip home before a holiday week end, a white man began yelling hateful things to two Muslim young women. Three men stepped in to try to deescalate the situation. The ranting man pulled out a knife and killed two of the men and injured the third.
A Memorial Day holiday that, for two families, began with death, for one family, began with a hospitalization, and for all the rest unfortunate enough to have been in that light rail car, began with witnessing hatred and death and compassion.
I too will die one day. Maybe today. All that I think of as essential parts of my life will one day pass, maybe in the blink of an eye.
Tagore reminds me that I must keep that reality in mind, and still love.
Love. Open my heart again and again. Knowing that nothing last forever.
This is at the heart of my spiritual path, the container that holds my whole life and death (both the daily little deaths and, one day, my physical death). I have many freedoms and choice in my life, but I am not charge of everything life brings to me. Life and death have their own rhythm and power, in my life and in all of nature. Birth, life, death and rebirth are all part of the natural cycle of life.
How we live matters. How we die matters. How we savor life and then, when it is time, release life, matters. For me, life invites me to live fully—savoring the gifts that surround me—and to die open-heartedly—surrendering to the big divine love in every moment.
The Rule of St. Benedict admonishes, “Keep death before you daily.” Know that only by fully accepting death can we fully accept life.
In our death-phobic culture, remembering our death and honoring the transitory nature of life seems crazy. In reality, it is the only way.
*Illustration by Khara Scott-Bey. Poem by Rabindranath Tagore
This blog is dedicated to the three who bravely stepped forward Friday in an attempt to bring peace to a violent moment— Micah David-Cole Fletcher, Ricky John Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche (The latter two died in the process). And to all my friends, and yours, whose life in these past few months has taken them to places they never would have chosen. And to my mother, Mary Sue Tipps Mathys, on this eve of what would have been her 91 birthday. Thirty years after her death, I still feel Mom’s presence and guidance.