Affirmation: This is the day The Lord has made, let me rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)
Benjamin Franklin said, "The only things certain in life are death and taxes." I'm sure there are those who hope to avoid taxes; I would imagine most get caught. Willie Nelson and Al Capon are two who come to mind. Some others, however, don't make enough money to have to pay taxes and that seems very sad to me. When it comes to death, however, no one, I repeat, no one gets out of it. There is no avoiding it, we are all caught in the end.
It seems to me that many people especially here in the west believe if you don't think about death, it won't happen. Certainly it's one of our greatest fears. I've read that's because it's the greatest unknown. Those who have a faith have reasons to believe in an afterlife and that can bring a great deal of comfort. I myself have chosen that belief but I haven't met anyone who has returned from the great unknown. I do know one or two people who have had near-death experiences and from what I've read that is usually a very positive experience but other than the tales I've read about people who claim to have had life-after-death events, I can't claim any personal experience. I guess part of the good news is those who have those experiences report something, not a total void, not completed nothingness. In the Naked Now, Richard Rohr shares his belief that our spiritual development here on earth will determine our after death experience. He says that the relationship we've developed with God here on earth will be the relationship we have after death. I once had a dear friend tell me she thought Christians would be met by Christ, Muslims by Allah and Buddhists (even though they don't believe in an afterlife) Buddha. Does that mean an atheist is met by no one?
Death has been very prominent in my life during the first half of 2014. I lost my mom in March and that was difficult but much of my life's work revolves around supporting people in crisis. The two Duke advisory boards I sit on are both for cancer programs. The DCPSP is for the patients and families of cancer patients and the other is the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Advisory Board. My passion for the Pink Ribbon Yoga Retreat brings me in contact with many people challenged by breast cancer and I sing for my church's Resurrection Choir during the funerals and belong to two prayer groups. I don't know if you know this but most prayers on a prayer list are not prayers of praise and thanksgiving, they are prayers for the healing, peace and comfort of the afflicted. Lately, I've been inundated with requests for prayers for a lot of people who are faced with some very serious life-threatening challenges.
Even though I have practiced yoga for over 40 years I had never given too much thought to the final resting pose, savasana or in English, Corpse Pose. When I attended the Raleigh Yoga Fest, one teacher, Jill Stockman, told us that Corpse Pose is called that to bring death to our attention. At the end of our practice she instructed us to imagine we were dying, to imagine letting go of Everything. She presented it as an opportunity for growth and awareness. It was a very powerful exercise for me. It made the rolling over to one side into a fetal position before coming to a seated position, even more meaningful. My practice is taking me from death into rebirth. I'm beginning again, a new start and that's what I believe death is. It's a new beginning, hopefully for me with Christ as has been promised. However, even if I'm practicing, I'm not ready. What has happened, however, with all of the news I've been receiving lately, is I'm even more aware of how precious every day is.
Let's admit it; we may be only one breath away from this life and the next. I cannot tell you how many people have come into my life in the last two weeks who have had a prognosis of less than a month to live. These people were not ill. They just started feeling yucky, finally went to get it checked out and boom, they were given the news that they were terminal! It's really scary. It didn't help that I then picked up the book, The End of Life Book Club which came highly recommended by several friends. What was I thinking? I know we have no way of knowing when our final day will occur. Sometimes there's absolutely no warning. I heard a tale about a man who went to market in Samaria and returned ashen. When he was asked what was wrong, he shared that he had had a brush with death. He asked a friend if he could borrow his horse so he could get away and go to Bagdad. His friend obliged him and then went to the market to see what was going on. When he arrived he ran into Death and asked him why he was looking for his friend. Death said that he wasn't looking for the friend and was simply surprised to see him in Samaria because he had an appointment to meet him tomorrow in Bagdad.
Ever since my dad died in 1980 when I was only 34, I've tried not to waste a day. I became very aware of the preciousness of each and every day. Its mediation, however, and I'm not always present to it. But, after these last few months and especially these last few weeks, I've been even more aware of enjoying every day to the fullest. I even ate MacDonald's french fries one day for lunch which for me is very daring. This is it! Seize it! Live it! Be joyful in it, count the blessings, and be grateful for what is and what is not. Do not utter a complaint or a criticism. Look around, recognize what truly is a problem and what are "ha ha" problems; those problems most of the world wishes they had and then give praise and thanksgiving. Go ahead, eat dessert first and even more important, and tell your loved ones how you feel. Don't let the day slip away without living it and sharing it to the fullest.