Death accomplishes the following miraculous things:
- It replaces time with timelessness
- It stretches the boundaries of space to infinity
- It reveals the source of life
- It brings a new way of knowing that which lies beyond the reach of the five senses
- It reveals the underlying intelligence that organizes and sustains creation
Our fault it not that we fear death but that we don’t respect it as a miracle.
Deepak Chopra, Life After Death: the Burden of Proof
Several years ago my partner Adele and I wrote a book intended for up and coming artists from various disciplines. We interviewed successful artists about their work and their life and how they were able to balance the two. One of the people we interviewed was John Ritter. I knew him from a play we had worked on with (and written by) our mutual friend, Jenny Sullivan; and as was always the case, he was more than happy to take time for us. The interview with him was delightful.
There were two moments that really stood out for me. The first was his description of his four-year-old daughter coming out into the living room, using her toothbrush as a microphone, telling corny jokes and then tapping the tooth brush and saying ‘is this thing on?’
The second was toward the end of the interview when he said, “I don’t think anyone has ever laid on their deathbed and thought ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office.'” It was clear to anyone who worked with him or who saw his work knew how much he loved acting, but in fact, he loved his family even more. His life reflected his love, and when he died suddenly, a year or so later, although horribly tragic for those left behind, it was clear that he had found a way to live and love fully.
When anyone in our family or our circle faces a life-threatening disease or circumstance, or when we find ourselves facing death, it’s easy to get caught up in the drama of things and to ask ‘why me’ or ‘why her,’ or to think life is unfair or any of the countless other ways we avoid reality. In fact, these experiences are opportunities to embrace ideas essential for living a meaningful life:
- that death is certain for all of us – even me
- that my life could be over in this next instant
- that there is no time but the present, and
- that what I am doing with the moments of my daily life is what I am valuing
In the Vedic worldview, death is not the opposite of life; rather it is an integral part of life. Without the certain knowledge of an ending to our time in the physical body, the search for freedom and joy we are engaged in would be meaningless. To remember that death is a part of our life can help us to remember our need to call upon the Divine for support and guidance, to call upon ourselves to be more present, and to look to our world and the people in it, especially those we are closest to, and ask ourselves, today, what is it I have to give that could be useful to these others? How may I be of service? What am I valuing today?
If I knew this was the last day of my life, would my plans for the day change? If the answer is ‘yes,’ then how much? If the answer to that is ‘more than a little,’ why is that okay with me?