Each time I write I die a little. Putting words on a page isn’t simple, even when they’re flowing at an exhilarating pace. What’s emerges comes from places deep inside me. And as I venture there, I find myself afraid, anxious and eager. As if I were once again a teenager about to go on a first date.
It may seem odd to be writing about dying during the Holiday Season. But this time of year is full of emotional traps and this year that’s particularly true for me. It's the year's end and I’m feeling very vulnerable.
As a writer, I travel through landscapes full of memories and thoughts; some painful and bitter, some bursting with laughter and warmth. This year, I’ve taken it upon myself to search more deeply for what these moments mean. I’m searching for what lies in their depths. I’m looking for the lessons, the small cues I may have missed that could empower me. The lessons that might help me to be finally free of the things that I’ve brought forward from my past.
A few days ago, while meditating, I saw my mother. For the first time she was smaller than me. She was actually shorter by several inches, but her dark bitterness cast a large shadow that haunted me for years. In my meditation, I found myself walking at my mother's side. We were holding hands, but she was the child and I was the adult. In vignettes I saw the perils, the fears and loss that were part of her childhood; the polio, the flooding in the oilfields of Texas. The young girl without a mother.
You see, my mother murdered her own mother. Not as a conscious act, but under the direction of a physician over the telephone. My grandmother died in my mother’s arms and although were other things later on in life that made her the angry woman she became, I believe that event was the most dire of all.
Coming out of the meditation wasn’t a hallelujah moment. It was merely a quiet letting go, a feeling of relief. The child that was part of a cycle of pain and anger died. The things my mother did to me were hateful, but it's time to let them go.
Thich Nat Hahn says that when someone dies we must live more fully for them. And as my mother's genes, and my grandmother's cells are all a part of me, I can live more fully for all three of us.
I confess that my decision to consciously practice dying has had me praying to the Gods to hold my hand – no one should have to die alone. And I’m grateful to feel their presence nearby. It may be that I will die physically in my sleep, or instantly in an accident. But practicing dying everyday is something I highly recommend.
As I ventured further into this process, I decided to call once again my dear friend and spiritual counselor, Abdi Assadi . Here’s what he said - "In my experience of being around dying people, most of us leave in the middle of something. Very few of us leave when our egos are ready. It’s good practice to see what feelings come up when we do have to leave things unfinished."
Abdi’s meditation: In your mind, release all that you hold dear, all activities, pains and loves that surround you in that moment. Pay attention to the emotions that come up. Your reluctance to let go - both the good and the bad. And practice letting them go. If you're reading a book, stop. If you're watching a movie, stop. Walk away. Let it go.
With that in mind, I, Sam, am an adult. I’m unfinished. I’m angry. I’m compassionate. I'm loving. I’m my mother's daughter. I'm my daughter’s mother. I’m every mother. I’m foolish. I’m wise. I want to finish this post. I’m a writer. I’m dying...