Death is strange. You already know that but I’m stating it again: Death is strange. There are people who seem like they’re on their deathbeds, who you’re sure only have a few months to live who wind up sticking around for another five years. And then there are people who are young, who you think have another 40 years left, that die suddenly. Death is always a shock but it’s the sudden ones I have the most trouble processing. It reminds me of that passage from Macbeth:
Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more.
It is so very painful to take in that you won’t hear a person anymore. You won’t see their posts on Instagram. They won’t encourage you to donate to their charity run. They’re just … gone. At least in their current form. My spiritual teacher says, “This expressed universe is nothing but a collection of temporary entities which are undergoing constant metamorphosis according to the sweet will of nature.”
We’re all undergoing metamorphosis, energy isn’t created or destroyed, so the person is still there but also not there and I’m sad about it. In my life, I’m mourning the sudden death of Matt Peter. I didn’t know him well, we didn’t chat on the phone, but what I did know is he was a good man. He genuinely tried to make the city of Albany, New York, a better place. He was a local politician who cared tremendously about his constituents and days before his death he participated in a charity run. That man showed up and he tried.
He approached politics with zeal like it was his mission in life, which tracks with what we say in my spiritual tradition. One of our tenets is that a person will merge in Cosmic Consciousness only after completing the duty assigned to them by Cosmic Consciousness. The trouble is, there’s no sand timer in the sky letting us know when the sand has run out. The person is there and then they’re not.
Some people worry about their legacy. They wonder how they’ll be remembered once they’re gone, if they made a difference, if anyone will think of them. I take comfort in that Carl Jung quote that says, “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” If there was any reaction, you made a difference. You’ll be remembered. You mattered.
I’m not going to tell you to seize the day, to live life to the fullest, or any of the other platitudes we hear so frequently after someone dies. Instead, I’m reminded of that game where you stand in a circle and hold a piece of yarn while also throwing it to someone else in the circle. In the end, you wind up with a giant web that connects every person to everyone else. That’s what I think life is like. So of course when someone dies, the metaphorical yarn is tugged and we all feel it, some more deeply than others.
Yet every person in my life who has died, I miss. Every person counts no matter how tangential our relationship. And that is something worth remembering.
I dream of a world where we allow ourselves to grieve no matter when or how grief shows up. A world where we remember we each have a duty and when we’ve fulfilled that mission, we return to the Source of creation. A world where we realize we’re all connected and any death leaves an impact. A world where we understand that every person counts.
Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.