Dying Wishes

Getting back to writing on the regular wasn’t as easy as tossing up an “I’m back!” post and then standing by for inspiration. Day after day I wait for the words to come. I sit still and ready and wait for a release. An activation. An opening. And day after day there is naught but that stillness. Still waiting. The wait is still.

I am reluctant to push. I assume it will help to just post something but then I ask myself if just anything at all is really what I want. No, but isn’t something better than nothing? Not necessarily. Well, what if that something/anything is the thing which opens the valve? Triggers the release? Activates the flow?

Ugh. Yes. What if, indeed. I see the practicality of writing for those monthly highlight reels now. I questioned the relevance of highlights to the point of suspending them and thus the relevance became known. They kept me in the flow. They kept me from going dormant. Not that some periods of dormancy aren’t good for us. They are, but the restart often benefits from some sort of prompt.

When I first stated writing I used running as that prompt. Thousands of words. Races, workouts, milestones, on and on and on … I’m still running but without the same purpose as in the good old days, so the prompt doesn’t work anymore. So what then? The photos, I guess. Sometimes my creative moments day to day or week to week are limited to making pretty pictures. I’ve still got that. When all else goes dormant, I’ve still got that.

See? I can always make something pretty out of what’s already here. Balls on a weatherbeaten tray, waiting for service.

I went to a party a few weeks ago and a close friend explained me to a stranger. She mentioned this is why she repeatedly hires me to make-over her spaces. In her words I have a magical ability to take what people already own within a given space and make it work better. I’ve done this for her several times. She pays me with food but I would do it for free. It’s the same with the photos; whatever is already here. I can make it pretty.

They tend to be tennis photos lately, because the light is good or because there is always an interesting angle or because I got to the court early enough for a few creative minutes on that given day.

This one isn’t even my racquet. I just loved the patterns in the shot.

So that’s what I have to offer today. A handful of pretty pictures from a week of practice, lessons, and matches. They could just as easily be photos of hummingbirds or sunsets or interesting people. The practice is the creative effort rather than the subject matter. These were my creative efforts. They all just happened to be on the tennis court this week.

It doesn’t mean nothing else happened. There were things.

An acquaintance came back from the doctor with inconclusive bad news but I had a flash of bone-deep knowing that my friend will die. Not fear, not suspicion, not a strange feeling I could rationalize away. Clear, stone-cold certainty. I knew what the test results would be. I was correct. I sensed with gut-sense this person praying for a miracle will not survive. Even when I second guessed it (because I thought it more compassionate to doubt myself) the answer was strongly, sternly No. Death is coming.

I could write pages and pages on that topic, I suppose. How I know. Why I know. The tornado of my internal reaction to this insight. What to do about it, if anything. What to say about it, if anything. At first it was tears and tension. Then questions. Then floundering as I argued with myself over seeking guidance from older, wiser gifted folk. Then finally, the hushed acknowledgement that I already know what to do.

Ease the path.

My job is to ease the path. Clear the way.

No fighting or resistance though it is interesting we default to this because we are trained to pretend death isn’t a certainty for us all. We treat birth with such pragmatism but not death. Every full-term expectant mother terrified she can’t do it is told birth will come, ready or not. Better face reality. But death? We pretend the same isn’t true. And we prove how much we love each other by perpetuating this disbelief. In this case, the message from the Universe was not about hope. Not a miracle story against all odds. Not this time. Death is coming and I have one job. When Death comes, I am serenity waiting at the threshold.

And that’s a lot to process. But aside from the punch and struggle of it, that mantle of serenity keeps the compass oriented to kindness at every crossroads. What would be the most kind? How can I make it easier while someone dies? When someone has months to live, how can I facilitate ease? How can I help make surrender bearable? Even if they think it’s mean or heartless of me not to co-hope. Even if I say No to business as usual because many things do not matter now. Even if I have to stand blocking the lane to denial.

And of course, I am wondering when I asked for this responsibility. When did I sign up for this? When I wrote about being a willing vessel, I’m sure. When I spoke to elders about vision and calling and said the words, I am ready. When I intentionally let my ground go fallow so I could purge and cleanse and prep for expansion. I brought this on. I brought it forth. The gift of facilitating harmony was already here, I’d just never been required to apply it to someone’s passing.

Okay. But. BUT!

Didn’t I pledge willingness and readiness with the assumption I’d get some other job? Something lovely, ethereal, and angelic? Some sparkly task involving poetry, magical language, soulful creativity, and flowy fabrics? Sacred circles and sisterhood and wisteria branches. That’s what I assumed I’d be doing. Aromatic fires. Yoga classes. Mystic mavens.

Oh, no. Not me. I got a death assignment instead. I’m supposed to be a healer! Not a … well, what do I even call it? Death watch sounds wrong. Harmonizer of death? The wordsmith has no words for this. Those people who stage homes for sale; you’ve heard of them. It’s like that, only with lives and time and cutting the shit. Death is coming. Let’s prepare, you and I. We can make this amazing, you and I. Let’s admit a person’s religion can ruin their death. A person’s family can ruin their death. We can do better.

I want to delete that last paragraph. It sounds so audacious.

But there have been signs. Once again someone called me Smug. There’s a history there between me and smugness. Such history makes Smug a cosmic sign. When someone calls me smug it’s the equivalent of a notification chime on a cell phone. Ding! Your operating system has been updated to the latest version. Sometimes serenity pisses people off. In this case it was my refusal to engage in a hateful tirade. Someone hit the door spoiling for a fight. She raged. I stood calm with a placid countenance so she thrusted smug as an insult. Oh no, no, no, my dear. Smug is my sweet spot.

In light of my alignment perhaps this was a natural fit. Maybe the Universe requires someone so audacious for this work. The kind of person who cries foul that our culture worships babies but discards old people. All babies become old people. Why are we such ignorant assholes about this? Under every Instagram post of someone’s precious pink newborn should be the disclaimer: This human is precious now but past a certain length of time will be deemed worthless. I’m tired of pretending this isn’t true. We crave babies and consider their helplessness and dependence a sacred responsibility, yet when those babies become helpless and dependent in old age we are disgusted. We begrudge and abdicate the responsibility. We can do better, and it should be taught simultaneously with reproduction and family planning.

I guess I practically dared the Universe not to choose me. I find advance warning of our deaths to be a gift. The ultimate Gift of life. These are the lucky ones; the ones who get to know and get to work with what’s here now in the remaining time. The freedom of cutting the shit, dropping appearances and expectations, and co-creating an ending. My friend doesn’t see this yet but I hope the comfort of it will come in time. I wish everyone could be given nine months notice of our passing the way our parents had nine months to prepare for our births. Someone wrote this into a television show recently. A dying character asked for his funeral before he died rather than after and everything I am applauded the audaciousness of this. We deny the dying their ceremony and give it only to the dead. We can do better.

We speak endlessly about preserving the sanctity of this or that part of life but death is as sacred as birth. If it is morbid to get excited about the chance to prepare for death, then add morbid alongside smug in your arsenal of sticks and stones. It is an incredible opportunity. Why would I deny my friend a beautiful death? Not just a peaceful death but a joyful death? An inspirational death. Or as reverent/solemn/holy a death as they see fit? Shouldn’t I help empower their sovereignty over their own experience of death?

So this is what I’ve been struggling to put into words. Waiting for the words to explain this after the monumental task of absorbing it for myself. Considering the audaciousness of declaring myself Death’s event planner. Every damn year we celebrate the fact we haven’t died since our last birth day because we’ve been taught death is the worst thing which can happen to us. Entire faiths are based on the premise/promise of thwarting death. Some governments have criminalized the failure to thwart death. And our dying days are spent in anguish desperately trying not to die with no one suggesting we could be dying with less horror and dread. What if we could make it better? Especially with advance notice, why wouldn’t we?

I’ve been trying to find a way to propose we can do death better for the dying. I had to find a way to say it out loud. I expect no one to agree with me. This doesn’t mean it’s still not my job.

While the words were swilling unspoken I played tennis and took photos.

— Mercy

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