I’ve been thinking about dying lately.
Not the act of dying; not me personally dying, or even those close to me dying necessarily.
Just this: everybody dies. All the great paintings, deep writings, fabulous carvings, fiery passions, sorrows and songs that have gone before were done by people scarcely remembered now. Most people are almost completely forgotten within 20 years of their death. The thought staggers and humbles me.
No one escapes, not even the finest or greatest among us.
The trigger for these morbid reflections is a rash of deaths and losses. Within the last few years, my dear aunt (from ALS, a terrifying disease) grandmother (a long, full life, but sorely missed) and a childhood friend in a car accident. Falling asleep at the wheel and gone in a nanosecond, as any of us could be at any time. Then just today I got a call from someone that a mutual friend, a wonderful radiant woman with a child at home, had committed suicide.
To top it off I got a new client, a six year old child with a phobia of death that is keeping her glued to her parents and tied to the home and teddy bear. Beginning therapy with her is beginning therapy with her family and talking openly about the Ultimate Taboo in America- dying.
So I meditate on this: am I doing what I came for? Is this world a better place because I was here? Is there something undone, that I still need to do?
The answer is yes, yes, and again yes, and that’s good. I am far from ready to go and there is still so much to do. Thankfully for me, it’s not about “making my mark” in this passing and corporeal world, but in touching lives. Thus, if today is that of my untimely (in my opinion) passing, I can go okay with it. I did my best each day to help, love, and to fully live, serving God through it all.
Then something different happened to me on my exercise walk.
I actually got a jog going all the way to the end of the former pineapple field I walk in, which has become a beautiful ecosystem in the 5 years it has lain fallow.
On my way back I cut across the field on the barely discernable track the axis deer and mountain bikers have made. The waist high grass blew golden, punctuated by the tangled blue of morning glories. Grouse rose on beating wings and crossed the looming purple of the volcano in the distance.
A visceral happiness rose in me, and I suddenly felt all my ancestors alive and present in the cells of my body, particularly my grandfathers: one of them a marine biologist, the other a rancher from Texas. They and all the pioneers that had been my family were suddenly alive, responding to the natural beauty all around me.
This is the kind of land they saw in their day: untouched, abundant. It is our natural state to walk through rich fields, feeling the wind and seeing nothing but wild.
I can only call it a spiritual experience, to feel my (their) very DNA crying out with joy and recognition of the tawny grass, the bowl of blue sky, the glitter of sun on the ocean. I guess that means they aren’t really dead, they literally live on inside me. And now, in my children, I’ve done my bit to pass them on.
My garden is my backyard petri dish of experimental growing. I bought seeds, and I finger the packets:
Pole Romano Garden Beans
Black Beauty Zucchini
Sweet Mix Multicolored Peppers
Early and Often Hybrid Tomatoes
Ambrosia Bicolor Sweet Corn
Red and Green Lush Romaine Lettuce Blend
Neon Lights Swiss Chard
Bush Champion Cucumber (anyone else get the pun on this last one? I had to buy it for the chuckle).
I love their slightly histrionic, florid names. And in this time of loss, seeds are all the potential in the world; a charm against suicide.