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“Our holy grit… it’s the sandpaper in your psyche that rubs you raw until you make it conscious.”  – Jacqueline Small, on Shadow

Lake Winola

Lake Winola

Karen turned sixty this month.

I grew up on a glacial   lake at the end of the Endless Mountains in Pennsylvania during the summer months. Karen lived with her parents and three brothers in the cottage next-door. My best friend, Cathy, rented the cottage behind them, at least her parents did. The circumference of the lake was approximately three miles, so children knew each other for long stretches that were walkable from their cottage. The lake was a friendly community where families looked out for each other and their children.

Being born in July, this lake was my first home. Sometime during the 60s my home became a state lake and everything changed. But prior to this, the lake was serene, the people familiar and it was a safe, aesthetically beautiful place in nature to grow up.

Our neighbors became extensions of our family. Karen lived next door and since we grew up together, I didn’t notice the developmental delays. Karen was mentally disabled, but we all thought she was odd. From a child’s perspective, there was just something different about her, damaged, maybe. Children were unkind to her, but not her brothers. Karen always liked me. One day, however, I joined the heartless descent as she walked in front of the trajectory of the swing I was on. I didn’t stop abruptly as I could have. I knocked her down. Fifty years later I remember that moment and I cry with so much shame. Perhaps I can understand the other children’s cruelty by understanding my own. Karen was an external manifestation of the damage I felt inside of me, the damage the other children must have felt, as well. Christians might call it Original Sin, Jungians call it Shadow, the unlikable parts of ourselves we hide until we have the inner resources to heal these parts and integrate them into a more forgiving personality.

Cathy’s family was very religious. Her mother, Lucy, told me children like Karen were sent here by God and reported back to him about how others treated her. Now, from my perspective, I can believe some of Lucy’s story/parable. Karen and her sacred curriculum was a mirror for people to look at themselves through. Not everybody liked what they saw.

Soon after that, Karen no longer lived next door. She came home on visits and loved to go for a boat ride with me. Karen never held a grudge. Her older brother became a minister and I worked with disabled children for a couple decades, as a teenager and an adult.

I wonder if Karen knows how much she affected the others around her or how much she taught people something about themselves, that they probably didn’t want to see.

Karen turned sixty this month. Happy birthday Karen. From my end-of-life perspective, I now understand the careful selection of the costume you chose for this lifetime and I know you are what some call an angel and I know, without equivocation, that you were my and many other children’s sacred teacher.

**One of my very favorite books on the subject is: Expecting Adam – A true story of birth, rebirth and every day magic by Martha Beck.

 

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“Even when you think you have your life all mapped out, things happen that shape your destiny in ways you might never have imagined.” -Deepak Chopra

HeavenYesterday, an opinion commentary I submitted to the Denver Post was rejected. His words were, “Thank you for your submission. We’re going to pass on this one.” That’s it. No other comment. I suspect this is a reflection of the management’s view. I’m slightly exasperated that opposing views would not be presented for people to make their own informed decisions about laws that affect us.

This brings up a greater issue I tried to avoid addressing in my last blog essay, but I cannot avoid it any longer. For many in our culture, accepting death is taboo. Perhaps it is considered a failure in a culture where might is idealized and vulnerability considered weakness. In order to understand that the opposite is actually true, a paradigm shift needs to occur, culturally. As each person awakens to the truth that death is a natural part of life, ideologies will change. War and destruction of the planet will be incomprehensible. Everybody does not have to shift their consciousness, merely reaching a critical mass will be sufficient.

What is holding this revolution back is fear. Perhaps this fear is caused by wanting to avoid the grief of losing a loved one. Perhaps it is the fear of facing one’s own mortality, letting go of the personality into the numinous. Being in my situation, I can clearly see that this fear keeps people from understanding the continuity and interconnectedness of the soul. Courage is what nearly everyone will have to summon when they are in the dying process. Kathleen Singh wrote a brilliant book titled Grace In Dying where she described the stage of panic and despair being just prior to the stage of transcendence. What keeps people from understanding the continuity of the soul, I believe, is a lack of courage, or cowardice. Wikipedia’s definition:

Cowardice is a trait wherein fear and excess self-concern override doing or saying what is right, good and of help to others or oneself in a time of need—it is the opposite of courage. As a label, “cowardice” indicates a failure of character in the face of a challenge.

My commentary was a rebuttal of the now minority held belief that people should not have the right to choose when to end their pain and suffering when they are in the dying process. The anti-right to choose group Not Dead Yet’s perspective was presented in a previous commentary. I presented point by point a rebuttal. Obviously, the Denver Post is biased.

I recently interacted with some state representatives and state senators in a respectful and interactive way. Personally, I am not near the need to consider these choices mentally, emotionally or spiritually, but physically I am extremely vulnerable. If faced with this choice, I’m not sure what I would choose for myself. Everybody has different thresholds for what they can bear. If I got pneumonia again, that would be my threshold. I’m not interested in drowning to death in my own fluids. That would be my moment to call in hospice for palliative care and to hasten my final transition. Having the option to lessen needless suffering for myself and my family would give me great comfort.

What I truly believe is what Rabindranath Tagor succinctly said: “Death is not extinguishing the light; it is putting out the lantern because the dawn has come.”

When the majority of our culture accepts this, there will be much less violence and suffering in the world, much more peace and compassion. Making peace with our final passage can happen at any time in our living or dying process. After all, we are all merely returning Home.

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Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. more...

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