There is a difference between thinking one will die one day and thinking about death itself. While the first one is a situation that allows you to swim in shallow water without setting sail for deep water, in which your feet are still on the ground, whose sum could be done in future, i.e. a situation that could be delayed, thinking about death itself brings the event to the present and doesn’t allow you to divert your attention from itself.
Is it possible to overcome thinking one will die one day? When I ask the question in this way, yes. By not thinking about death. As many of us do.
Is it possible to overcome thinking about death itself? Thinking about death itself starts when you realize irreversibly the existence of death already there, when you have a close brush with death maybe as a result of death of a loved one or your own near-death experience. I think it is the point of no return.
After death opens the door of grief for the ones in this world. During the grief period, while the longing for the dead one and mournful days are the main topic of conversation, the changes made as a result of becoming familiar with death itself remain unspoken. However, the repercussions of those deep transformations continue; quietly and sometimes severely.
Grief is the pain of transformation to a new reality in which realities which we assume we are hiding by even hesitating to use the word “death” are revealed and the idea that “everything is permanent” we unknowingly are taken with is irreversably shaken.
Grief is seeing death and letting it change your life.
Seeing death is bringing both life (your life) and the death itself to the present. It is taking the reality of death out of the pattern “ I will die one day” and transforming it to the awareness of “ death is always by my side”. The concept we call present is a painful way and it requires effort as there is no room for toxic delays.
I would like to quote from Stephen Jenkinson’s book Die Wise about this:
"...You are willing to see your dying, and as soon as you do it can change how you understand your life. Your dying changes your eye, it changes what you see, and in that way your dying begins first in your seeing. Your dying changes what your life means.
For anything like this kind of alchemy to happen, your willingness and your sweat equity is required. It is enormously expensive to have your dying change what your life means, and you start paying from the cache of ideas you’ve nursed along for years about what living and dying are for. Dying changes what life means if you are willing for it to be so, as a rule,and only if you are willing to pay, to lose your old ideas, often by handfulds at a time."
My father died in 2010 unexpectedly. He didn’t have any chronic illness. One day his heart stopped while he was reading his newspaper peacefully. One day before he died he had come to us with my mother. My son, Batu, had started to walk in a balanced way on his own recovering a little from the severe physical results of his medical condition and spent most of the day on my father’s back treating him like a horse. My father was very happy that day and said that he had never played so well with Batu as he was leaving. Perhaps that day was a present of Batu to his grandpa…
I "saw" my father’s death. I don’t use it as seeing his death physically. I both went through a grief period in a classical sense and witnessed the reconstruction of my ground on which I had built my life by this death. As Jenkinson says, I lost my old ideas handful or even lapful.
It is true that grief is a loss. However, grief as a result of death is not only the physical loss of the loved one but also the change meeting with death makes in you. It is the loss of your old personality, what you know and your beliefs. It is your first official encounter with "present" which is the only reality left you have. It is a relatonship starting like arranged marriage. It is life’s marrying you with "temporariness" without consulting you and making you vow "for better, for worse, until you are parted by death".
Your coupling with "present" starts in grief, as it should be so, but if you let dying change everything, that grief lets the answer to the question always echoing in you whispered in your ear; the past didn’t get lost. The past is here. It is where the secret of the present is as well. Your mysterious marriage is not in vain.
You should remember, too. There is death. If you let grief, i.e. your marriage starting as arranged one evolve towards loyalty oath coming from the heart, be prepared for what you will hear. I would like to finish with the words of Jenkinson:
"But starlight traveling a bewildering distance for so long that there is every chance that it doesn’t even exist anymore, and all of that having already happened, and you standing there, your face blazed in the dark by a starlight gone, seeing it all, what is and what isn’t there enthroned by witness: That is a marvel, and surely that is how awe is born in us. With somebody there alongside you in the darkness, you can think unauthorized thoughts. You can see what’s goneü or whether it’s gone, or both. Fantastic."
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