I have this thing about death; rather, I had this thing about death. I remember attending only one funeral in my life because death was so freighting to me. There was just something to cold and final about dying. I think my fears around death were related more to my strict religious upbringing than to my own fears and thoughts. Church made death dreadful, final, and fearful. Church supported the idea that once a person died he or she could never be redeemed. All the sins one accumulated in life followed him or her until either the person was saved and perfect or died; at which point he or she went to Hell. When my grandmother died I was both sad and relieved. I watched her suffer with cancer for years and for me death released my loving grandmother from all of the pain and suffering she was enduring. Upon death she was cremated, so there was no casket just a portrait of my beloved grandmother in all of her glory. I don’t remember crying at the funeral service, instead I was filled with peace. As one could image I was confused to see family members distraught during the service. They all had seen my grandmother, who when well could hang with the feistiest of men, deteriorate to a shell of her self. Knowing they witnessed her decline just as I had I was baffled by their sadness. What prevented me from attending funerals (after my grandmother’s) was not death, but the human response to death.
Sometime between my return home and graduating from graduate school I went through an emotional pilgrimage that would ultimately bring me closer to my whole self and God. This was a dark and lonely time filled with pain, sadness, and rejection. Just when I thought things could not get darker I found myself in the deep of night blinded. During my last year of graduate school, I had little time and money for anything. No partying, no clubbing, no drinking; just work and school night after night. I was struggling both financially and mentally and felt defeated every day. Imagine feeling empty, broken and alone; I was in despair. When I was by myself I wanted to crawl out of my skin. I could not stand the thought of me. I wanted the world to swallow me up in on big gulp and never let me return. When I was with others I was either irritable or on the brink of tears. I was exhausted from putting on the front that everything was well because on the inside I felt unhinged. Nothing provided comfort or dulled the ach in my spirit. I was raw and slipping deeper into the dark unknown with each passing day.
Anything that could go wrong did. My son was diagnosed with a seizure disorder, work was slow, so I was not making much money, my financial aide for school ran out and I had to pay out of pocket for school. I had two friends who were both getting married and I could barely pay my rent let alone attend two weddings. Hell, there were several months I was faced with paying my car note or paying my rent. I always paid my car note rationalizing living in my car if I were to get evicted. There were many weeks that there was not food in my apartment. To add injury to insult my apartment was broken into. I could feel myself was coming dangerously close to the end of my rope; I was over exerted mentally and physically. My apartment was where I would spend my free time hiding in my pitch-black room with the curtains drawn and barracked from the world. But, now I was afraid to be at home. I stayed at my sister’s house for a few nights, but I could sense my welcome was wearing thin so, I returned to my apartment. I was not sure how much more I could take before I broke.
One night, after tossing and turning for hours I had had enough. I asked God to let me die. Up until that point I had not talked to God at all. I felt He, like everyone else, had abandoned. I believed either He found enjoyment in my suffering. Or He was punishing me for some act too grievous for me to ever be forgiven. So, I ended all communication with God until the moment I was laying in my bed weeping into my pillow. I lay there pleading my case. I informed God every person in my life would be better offer without me, especially my son. I told God how He made a mistake by allow me to be the mother of my son. I attempted to convince Him that I was unworthy of life, altogether. I even apologized for my broken body and weak spirit. Heck, I think I even forgave Him for creating me. I told him it was okay that He had high expectations for me and that I was sorry of disappointing him. Finally, I asked, begged, and prayed for death to find me. Then, I cried myself to sleep. When I woke the next morning, the world did not seem so dark and my body was a bit lighter. For the first time I felt there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
What I now know is a part of me (several parts, actually) died that night. Literally, overnight my life improved. Although I had a long way to go on my personal journey but in that moment, I felt more free and open than I had my entire life. The world did not seem so bad and the pain was not as deep or intense. It was as though the edge had been taken off. I had more room in my lungs to breath, my sight was clear, my thoughts focused. I was offered transformation so the parts of me that no longer served my life purpose could die creating space for the new parts and gifts to rise to the surface. I was offered Grace to sustain me during my journey until death happened again. And death did happen again.
Truth is death is not this black hole where all is lost. Instead, death is a place of transformation. In death we find movement and change. Yes, death is the end and in the same breath death is life. In order for new thought forms to rise and new opportunities to come something must first die or end. The new beginnings of Spring cannot happen without first the death that happens during Winter.