October 21, 2014

The Burden of the Living.

death gravestone cross

Death weighs heavily on my mind.

My friend’s mom died suddenly from an aneurysm three years ago last week. My mom died from brain cancer a year and a half ago this week. And I just spent the weekend with a dear friend who’s dad is currently dying of ALS. All brain-related deaths. All tragic, painful, traumatizing parental losses for children all under the age of 30.

What’s happening to the human brain that the chances of dying peacefully and elderly in our beds is becoming an absolute rarity?

I understand that bodies must come and go. It’s the cycle of life and children are supposed to lose their parents. But in our modern world, shouldn’t parents be living a little longer?

I did a little research and was surprised to learn that in the Paleolithic era, the average life expectancy was 32. Today, it’s 67. Over the course of 2.6 million years, we’ve doubled our time on Earth.

Some may think that’s slow progress while others may be impressed.

A recent article predicts that people who have already been born could live to see 150. The belief is that over the next 25 years, we’ll have our current diseases cured or at least under control.

Cancer is our modern day plague. If a cure broad enough to cure all cancers exists, I’m sold. But with diseases of the brain, so little is known. And won’t there always be a new medical phenomenon to tackle?

I have a hard time accepting early death. I have reconciled eventual death as inevitable. I can even rationalize accidental and violent death because we live in a dangerous and often cruel world. What I can’t wrap my brain around is the randomness to different cancers, aneurysms, non-genetic ALS, etc.

And these are primarily first world diseases. 

I know that the food we eat, the environment we live in and the stress we carry contributes to disease. I also know a yoga teacher that recently died of lung cancer. She ate pristinely and never smoked a cigarette in her life. In a circumstance like this, I want to call bullshit on the Universe. It feels like one of the cruelest injustices.

My teacher would say that these peoples’ souls have karma to burn and I’ll never know the whole story regarding their transformation. All I can do is stay curious about my own journey and show nothing but love and kindness to others so that I can contribute to the healing of the planet instead of its destruction.

Damn, is that hard.

And necessary.

So every time that I hear about another person’s diagnosis, all I can do is take a deep breath and wish that soul well. I can ask the Universe for patience, clarity and strength so I can be of service to those who live in pain and suffering. So I can bear witness to the process rather than try to fix or control the outcome.

We miss the people we’ve lost. It’s the burden of the living. But ultimately, we still get to live and love, so that’s what I commit to doing each and every day.


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Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Jes at Flickr 

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