Two-year old Daragh, after marching through piles of leaves, colourful leaves that are still falling here in County Kildare, asked his Nana Sheila to put the leaves back on the trees. He liked to watch them fall. He was sure his Nana would be able to accomplish this feat, and simply could not understand why she would not fulfil this, to him, simple request. He flew into a tantrum until lured out of it by the promise of some other goodie.
As adults, we react to this story with an ‘ah…bless him,’ for we know it’s impossible to put a leaf back on a tree. Yet we sometimes rant, rave, or mourn over someone’s death, replaying it in our minds, as if there were any other time, or any other way it could have happened. Unlike little Daragh, however, we may not allow ourselves to be lured out of our rage or depression. We can no more stop or change the death—of ourselves, or of another—than we can put a fallen leaf back on a tree.
Death is merely us without our Story; it is a dreamless sleep. People stay alive in our hearts and minds, where they really lived all the time. We can celebrate that, for however brief a time, we saw that beautiful leaf before it fell from the tree—whether its fall was due to a tempest, a disease affecting the tree, or the natural progression of time. Sorrow, rage, and suffering stem from the rejection of reality; in fact, all suffering can be traced to our inability to accept Reality.
And what is Reality? What’s happened…that’s IT. Byron Katie’s perspective on this (and I’m drawing from hers, as expressed in Loving What Is, in this blog) fascinates me: Reality can only be in the past. Because it’s in the past, it’s over. Finito. That’s all she wrote. End of Story. Death only happens once, as far as we know, but how many of us replay a death over and over and over in our minds? How many times have we had the same person die, in our minds? Perhaps we agonise over this; we might replay what we feel is our part in that death. The real death took place once; in our minds, it may have happened a thousand times. Our inability to accept reality causes us needless suffering. Our thoughts about the death comprise our Story; we believe our Story; we suffer.
My friend Kathy, the one I wrote about in an earlier blog, ‘Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way,’ passed away a little over a week ago. I can honestly say I did not grieve her passing; thanks to The Work, I have a very different perspective on death and dying (among other things). Debs wrote to me about Kathy’s send-off (‘funeral’ just isn’t the right term for it), and it was a joy to me to read about it. I don’t think Deb will mind if I share her description:
Now, that’s what I call a proper wake. In fact, family and friends, when I go, please try to do something like this for me! I’d really like to have it in Ireland, of course, but that may not be possible. (I promise I won’t haunt you, no matter what you choose to do, though. I’ll be working on a different Story, with any luck.) Kathy, organised to the last, wanted to go out in style—her style—and she did. It was a celebration of life, her death being merely the very teeniest, and very last, moment of it. We all watched her leaf, you might say, though not all of us saw it fall.
Way to go, girl. Way to go.