strange things happen on the bus.
being a frequent user of public transport i sometimes meet friends and acquaintances going in the same direction. i recently met someone i hadn’t seen in some time. i asked how she was doing and what she was doing, knowing that she’s very active politically. she told me she had recently been interviewed by a magazine about her history as a lesbian activist in london in the 70s.
then she began to talk about her friends and comrades from that time who had died, and their funerals.
she pondered aloud, “do we cry at funerals for our lost youth?”
that gave me pause for thought, and much contemplation after i stepped off the bus.
why do we cry at funerals?
i suppose there are as many reasons as there are people who shed the tears. for some it might be their lost youth, vitality, conviction that we could change the world. for others it might be the loss of the dead person in their life, the hole that cannot be filled by anyone except the person who has died. for yet others it might be the prospect of their own death and the fear that the thought engenders.
facing our mortality is one of the sacred tasks of eldering. how do we hold our hardwiring to survive alongside the profound knowledge that we will die? ram dass, one of the greatest (and funniest) spiritual teachers of our generation, reminds us that “dying is absolutely safe. no one fails at it.” we will all go through the transitions from birth to life to death, no matter what the years of living have brought.
the practice of surrender helps me to hold my certain death in my consciousness. carlos casteneda, another bright figure of the 60s and 70s, reminded us that death lives on our left shoulder. (while casteneda’s work has been questioned by anthropologists, the lesson here is worth learning regardless of whether it is a true yaqui teaching or not.)
were we to live with that awareness, that continual knowledge, how would we live each day, each moment, each breath? were i able to actually sustain that awareness, i would breath with gratitude, act with love and speak with my highest intentions for all beings.
in that way i would to go to my funeral undiminished, fulfilled and whole.