“I have so much to do, that I will never catch up, therefore I cannot die,” read a quote on my boss’s wall at an old job in 2011. Her clutter was legendary among her employees, and when she retired, her replacement supervisor quickly sorted out, tossed, decluttered, and painted the office and driver’s room area for a clean fresh look. The stuff to do was gone, just like that.
I have faced many small death moments in life wherein things or ideals I had placed great attachment to had to die in order for something new to be born. Most of the time I welcomed the changes, but some of them I am still grieving. It was difficult to know when I was in survival mode what the best outcome of the decisions I made would be, and hard later on to reconcile my conscience with the best choice I could make during those times. The analytical part of my brain often fusses at how things could have been better, yes, but I did not see it then.
Sometimes I have stood in the place where I have been almost too tired to go on, and how attractive death can seem when everything just STOPS. These are the points where I have to fall back, stop forward motion, and get what rest I can out of the faith that things can get better. True, sometimes they don’t, but nothing gained was ever ventured with a lack of trying.
There is a gift that awareness of my eventual death – eventual – brings me. I have seen this with every friendship lost, every death I have had to encounter. I am not celebrating that loss. What I have taken away from each encounter with death is a falling away of what momentarily seems important. Self-importance is a huge one on my list.
Some rich guy dies, he served in government or was important to the culture in some way. He pays a lot of money or arranges for the granting of a lot of money, and he gets his name put on a boulevard, or as a name plate on a huge expensive building, or even a bridge, and his feeling when he dies is that he wants to be remembered forever. Thirty years later another rich guy buys the right to have the boulevard or the building named after him, and who remembers the first guy. Everything he built, everything he accomplished will mean little to those left behind him in the world. He will live on only in the memories of the living while they are still yet alive.
The point is not whether that individual contributed positively or not. The point is what did he leave behind in the memories of the living? Did he treat people well or poorly? Was he thoughtful and kind, or a forceful bully so intent on leaving his mark that he overshadowed less forceful people?
The names that seem to actually live on forever belong to those whose life work made lives better for other people. Jesus, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Theresa, Ghandi, and Nelson Mandela are among the saints. There are many more whose inspiring achievements in our fields of endeavors have made life better for many people: in the sciences, in the sports, in the arts. We don’t forget their stories.
How well or how little I think of my self, my needs, my wants colors the relationships I have with all the life forms around me, and whether my influence on their lives will have any greater meaning. Therefore, it seems imperative to let that stuff go, again with the hope and the faith that what is essential to my life will be there for me in divine time. As that is another whole topic, I feel quite free to end this topic here and now.
Dear Creator, to be in right relationship to you is to be in right relationship to my kindred, whether they be people or the smaller brothers and sisters of animal kind, plant kind, insect kind, or among the brethren that flies and swims. Let not the noise of self keep me from relationships of this kind. Let me be of use in the world. Amen – Aho