by Sarah Miller
A friend once said to me that he’d never had to experience death. No one in his life had ever died. Ever. I had to close my eyes and take a deep breath, trying to fathom what that reality might be like. I couldn’t grasp it.
My first encounter with death came at a very young age. My father died less than a year after I was born, I was practically born with death in my life. It is only at this point, twenty eight years into this existence, that I can clearly realize how that experience has affected me, has shaped my life, my family, our relationships, and my emotions. I’ve since realized just how much the sadness of that loss has molded my life and my self thus far.
Life was sadness for so long that as a result, I continued to choose sadness as my only reality. Right through the miserable friendships and relationships, the unfortunate, depressing educational experiences, the excessive drugs and alcohol and all the negative feedback I was giving and getting in return. I allowed the sadness to continue. And every tortured experience and loss would add to the reality of sadness I was creating for my life. I didn’t want to go on, I wanted it all to end, and many times was just that close.
After barely making it through high school, something inside of me shifted and I decided that less darkness might be possible somehow. I didn’t know what it looked like, felt like, tasted like, but I was determined to find out. I didn’t change my actions much, but I started creating new experiences. Most of them were as bad as the rest, but in the long run, worthwhile somehow. I crisscrossed around the country, all my belongings on my back, my dog at my side, searching. Searching for less sadness. More happiness. But it didn’t ever stop.
On one of my travels, I called home from a payphone somewhere on the East coast and got the news that would forever seemingly change my existence. The closest person to my heart was diagnosed with cancer, my mother. My fight for happiness, and the search for it, took another blow.
I eventually ended up going home, again, and starting what would become my life-long healing process- in a town I hated, that felt like death itself, with a mother facing transition and my own body that was fighting for life and happiness. This deep, rich, darkness was the beginning of everything. It was the beginning of real, happiness, real personal joy.
It’s taken me a while to see living as a delicate balance of life and death. Our daily choices support one or the other. And it’s all part of the biggest circle, called existence.
There has been a steady dose of death in my life ever since my first taste of it. Family members, close friends, animal companions, and those I’ve only known briefly have moved on, even my Guru has transitioned, and I’ve come to realize there’s a theme to it all. It doesn’t stop. It can’t. There’s life in it also.
I’ve dealt with death so many times by now that I think I’ve got it figured out. I think I know how to deal with it. But I never do. I allow myself to process it and move forward with the fond memories. By now, I have a lot of fond memories.
But Nature has other ideas too. She likes to remind us about the depth of things and the thin veil between opposing existences and all the differing realities. She likes us to know there’s more than it seems- especially just when we think we’ve got it figured out.
When I got the news several days ago that my new, dear friend is making decisions herself about whether she should stay or move beyond, that her cancer is back and her liver is taken by it, that she’s been moved to an intensive care unit in some hospital, it doesn’t seem I’m getting more comfortable with the idea at all.
And I begin to process life. And death. And the existence of the two. Yet again. One more time. Feeling my heart burst and my eyes swell with tears. At this point, the only parts I truly have figured out are: Change is constant. Love is unyielding.
*I am extremely grateful to outlets like Elephant Journal for allowing me, and others like me, to express unadulterated thoughts, feelings and experiences. Please support grassroots media sources like this and help them become stronger!
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