February 11, 2007
Sara’s death hung heavy over me, so I went the the Grotto to just sit with the news of her passing, and to revisit all my other losses, as well as contemplate my eventual passing from this dense plane.
I had walked the Stations of the Cross hundreds of times over the years, but the day Sara died, I really noticed them for the first time. I thought about them for the first time. I heard them for the first time. They spoke to me about fear: my fear, Sara’s fear. Because in the artist’s relief of the first station, in which Jesus is being condemned to death by Pilate, I saw Christ’s fear–the dread, the hopelessness, powerlessness–it was the same fear we all share at the prospect of dying, of ending.
I understood that the Stations of the Cross were much more than Christ’s agonizing walk to Calvary, but depicted the human condition and the challenges each of us face. It is a journey that begins with fear and ends in liberation. But how does one move through dread and terror to understanding?
One station at a time. One step at a time.
February 10, 2007
Three years ago, in the very early hours of the morning, I lie dreaming. At the same time, across town in Good Samaratin Hospital, my friend and writing teacher was dying.
In my dream, I clung to the lip of an abyss– a gaping canyon, resisting a force trying to pull me away, trying to uproot me, obliterate me. Terrified, I held fast to the edge as featureless beings spun around me, waiting like vultures. I looked down into a river hundreds of feet beneath me and considered letting go to fall into the river. But I was afraid to fall, and afraid to fly, because flying– giving in to the force pulling at me, meant the destruction of my being, my identity, me.
I understood that succumbing to this force would result in my coming apart and merging with everything around me. I couldn’t fathom such obliteration, such utter extinction. So I clung, and resisted and dug in for all I was worth, like an oil molecule clinging to the side of a centrifuge, resisting emulsification.
When I learned of my friend’s death, the dream made sense. She was an atheist. This is what they’re afraid of at the moment of death. I realized later, that even with my Christian upbringing, Buddhist practice, and pagan and new age leanings, that this was in fact, my own fear.
Falling isn’t an option; flying isn’t an option. The fear must be confronted if I’m to die a good death, and live a good life.