Death and taxes are often said to be the only constants in an otherwise ever-changing world.
But it’s quite possible to get out of paying taxes (especially if you happen to be a multi-national corporation).
Death, however, is inevitability.
Still we don’t really believe death can touch us personally.
Not yet, at least.
Someday when we're old maybe. But not yet.
Death has a tragic way of sneaking up on youth, doesn't it.
So okay. So what?
Just that we must learn to face it.
Otherwise it haunts our lives always there over our shoulder, just below awareness.
Upon this most common of human angst—the fear
of dying--false religions are built.
Specifically, the concept of eternal damnation after we die. Charlatans use this threat to coerce obedience from the faithful. The rest of the week the congregation gets to pretend they are not on a one-way trip to damnation.
Unless, of course, you do what you are told and fill the collection basket. Then you will be rewarded when you die. But while mainstream religion is vague on the subject of heavenly rewards it is very definite on damnation; the priests having learned early on that the fear of loss motivates "sinners" far more effectively than the allure of celestial splendor and magnificence.
Is it any wonder that people have an unnatural fear of death? Nobody lives a perfect life according to them. We do the best we can. But that's never enough for their vengeful god. Unless you're a saint taken up to heaven personally the best you are going to get is Purgatory where you suffer until Judgment Day.
traditional religions we only get one shot at life. Then it’s either up
or down, heaven or hell.
In my case, up seems unlikely. Somehow, I can’t see myself fitting into a sky full of rococo cherubs with their rosy cheeks.
However, when it comes to pain, in the words of Sarah McLachlan,
"Everyone here knows how to cry"
So you can see why the faithful of the three major faiths (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) soundly believe that death may well be—probably will be--a terrible thing.
Then there’s the rest of us.
But even if we don’t fear judgment we sure as hell fear the agony we’ve seen our friends and family go through when someone close to us dies--all the while medical science powerless to stop the disease or put the broken body back together.
On the other hand, death may not be the worst thing that's ever happened to us.
In fact, the older we get, the more likely it is that the worst thing that will ever happen to us already has.
For one thing no one needs to suffer
physically at the end. Pain management has come a long way.
Assisted suicide has gone out of fashion, having served its purpose as a wakeup call to medical science to alleviate chronic pain or have the patient check themselves out.
Death is often quiet and painless, a person slipping into sleep, knowing that they are ready or knowing nothing at all. This is what has just happened for my dear friend and father figure. I was there with his wife and closest friends as he quietly slipped away after a year long struggle with a horrible brain tumor.
And it’s not like we have to die now.
Now, hopefully, we’re fully alive and reasonably awake.
Now, would be a tragedy.
Even if we don’t live to a ripe old age and slip peacefully away, we probably won't have to suffer long, like in a car accident, or something. If that happens we won’t have time to concern ourselves with the sadness of our own passing. Shock--the God/dess’ last grace--is merciful. We'll probably feel nothing, not even remorse.
How do I know?
I’ve been there. I just remember waking up and being mildly amused that I was still alive. I was feeling no pain, however, as sister morphine had lain her cool cool hand upon my brow. And then I’d drift back into the land of the lotus eaters.
The only thing that might cause serious trauma at the end of our life is if medical science does everything in its power to save our life and fails. Even then we can choose to stop treatment, get our pain relieved, and slip into shut down mode, as did my friend.
Again, a tragedy now, but then, when we're dying, sometimes the better choice--but one that must always be made by the individual. But at some point, all your life is suffering and you have no real chance of changing it . . . . You have to be very careful here. People's lives are changing all the time. Often for the worst--but often better, too. If that weren't so nobody would live, even a year, it would be all downhill from your birth. But it isn't. It gets better more than it gets worse--usually. If you feel that it's not getting better and not likely to--ever--and your number is truly up check for depression. The trick is to have a close friend or a therapist give you some perspective. It's way too easy to think the way things are now is the way they will always be, or worse. But once, only one time, they really are. Your call, right up to the very end, if you’re even halfway lucky. Otherwise have a health care proxy you love and trust with your life.
So then what happens?
After we die, I mean.
Scientists seem to believe we blink out like a light.
Wiccans do not.
We believe that when we die we go to a place called Summerlands.
But even if science is right and the end is just the end, it won't matter. We won't care because we won't be.
But that's so boring, let's see what the possibilities may hold.
Summerlands is my favorite prospect where we’re on a vacation from the traumas of life, out to pasture in the clover (but not permanently). We are only there to rest and visit with our friends and family (and cherished animal pals) that have passed before us and to be on hand to welcome new arrivals. Often, the first thing we feel after death—not as a physical sensation but as an emotion—is that soothing comfort of someone we’ve lost, holding us in their astral arms, until we are no longer afraid--especially if our death had been a bumpy ride.
The first thing we "see" after our death is the parting of the gray rain clouds of the mortal world opening on a silver-blue ocean way below us. Then, far off in the distance, the white cliffs shining in the sunlight. Above the shoreline green green grass and rolling hills lay beneath us. Here we come to rest; here we will find our loved ones standing near an orchard in full bloom, petals falling like pure white snow.
Then we may "walk" arm and arm down the lane of whatever our personal heaven feels like and more loved ones come and greet us. And everybody is coming up and embracing, laughing and crying, cheering. It had been a long haul but we’re finally here, in Summerlands.
From this point on I can only give you my personal vision of Summerlands. You will probably have a different scenario in mind.
First you smell it, the green everywhere, the new mowed hay. But not really smell or see as you did with your old body. Now you are the essence of green, its truest nature beyond spectral radiation exciting optic nerves. 'I am cool soft green I am one with green!' And one with the Beings of my kith and kin at the same time (if time had meaning in the Summerlands). It's as if we're leaves in the forest when the wind blows warm from the south, rustling ever so softly, knowing it all in the only way possible: Pure Universal Unity.
Suddenly, everything becomes crystal clear, it all makes sense—Finally! And now we are the soft breeze as it swirls through the starry night, caressing every living thing with our life. Yes, we are life, all life, a part and the whole all at once. Not the flesh but the life within.
And here, in Summerlands, we get the ultimate do-over with the very person we may have clashed with when we were flesh. Yes, it was, after all, the flesh that had blinded us to who we really are and who we are to each other always. We should have known better. Ah, but there’s always next time.
And so it goes. In the long evenings, a Summer Solstice every one, a celestial ale house or olympian splender, or lying in elysian fields watching white clouds drift like painful memories set free in the blue sky. Plenty of time now and all paid for by our long hard battle in life.
Of course we've had great times too when we were flesh,
Well, here in Summerland, we relive those golden memory, every perfect moment.
(in response to R. S.)
No, we don't really make love in Summerland. We leave our genitalia, as well as the rest of our body, behind. What we take with us is our feelings, our emotions. But don't worry, nobody has any. How egalitarian, how inspiring. Everyone is their own perfect self. And the good news is we don’t have to rely on any earthly quasi-procreational gymnastics. Fun yes, but nothing compared to NOW when we can experience another person in full rapture--they're right there a part of us all of us. Even people totally inappropriate, no problem now. We merge with their true essence--that which we only catch a glimpse of--and so rarely--in the flesh.
There is a hell too—of sorts. Because nothing is so good or bad that feelings make it so. And if living a good life reaps the joys of Summerlands, the pain of a life gone wrong brings absolute sorrow. This is the hell of the soul. Good thing it’s not eternal damnation. That’s where the confusion lies. We get to live again as soon as we’re ready. That’s what the trauma is about--not punishment--processing the bad life choices until we are able to do better.
Most of us, on the other hand, have to be coaxed back to the land of the living. Not by some separate entity. There are no separate entities. No other gods, only We across the Universe. We’re coaxed by that part of what remains indestructibly I, the essence of our Being.
That, and the certainty that we will do even better the next time around.
Perhaps we even get to choose our personal attributes, the characteristics we're born with, the ones described by our natal horoscope--maybe we can have any chart in the Zodiac--just not them all at once. We can have Virgo rising but we can't have Sagittarius rising in the same life at the same time--duh. Maybe, for instance, we can be smart but not lucky. Or tall but not graceful. To live fast but not long. We get to choose, possibly even who we will be with in our next life.
And, truth be told, we kind of miss having a body—especially a brand new baby one; what a challenge!
But it’s not all roses. We mustn’t forget our very first introduction to pain: the birth canal. Something like:
‘You gotta be kidding. I can’t squeeze out of there, Mom. Oh no! Head first! Not the head! Not the head! It isn’t even hard yet." </; )
But that’s soon forgotten and life begins anew.
This time we intend to make sure to enjoy everything fully, live every day, make love, dance! Sing even. Take time to smell the roses. To have a first child again.
Pretty soon we’re making plans for the new and improved live and kicking I.
Truly, both states of Being are exquisite. Today we live in a wonderful physical Universe, despite all evidence to the contrary.
I believe this because I’m sure that if the Universe were hostile we
wouldn’t last a seconds.
As far as we know, only this thin skin on a ball of dirt orbiting a second rate star in a second rate galaxy is the only place capable of supporting human life.
The brutal harshness of the Universe at large should have swept us off this planet
long before we got a chance to evolve into anything--bacteria even.
But it didn’t.
Something very powerful wants us here.
Summerlands is one aspect of that something, the flip side of life.
For that reason, we don't need to fear death--just simply enjoy the ride of our lives for NOW.
That’s what we’re supposed to do. We know that. We rediscover that truth when we are in the Summerlands and remember it in our hearts here in this temporal world. When we feel that purpose we're happy. It's life’s way of telling us that we’re on the right path. Unhappiness tells us we need to make a change.
Our Gods and Goddesses show us that (including Jesus. see the Gospel of Thomas). After all, they are our ideals. And what passionate legacy they give to us—full of fire and joy.
To live otherwise is to sin against those
ideals, our very Being--the only sin--the sin of ingratitude for our precious
Worse, the sin of ingratitude is not taken out on us someday, as is the case in traditional judgmental religions, it happens immediately, while we live.
Start to shrink from life and step closer to dying, that point when we’d as soon pack it in and be in Summerlands as our corporal existence.
No, the Being within us needs unbridled joy as often as possible or life departs on the installment plan.
Those not busy being born are busy dying.
Live! Don’t wait for tomorrow. Just live!
So may it be