As most children do, I grew up with a tremendous fear of death and the temporary nature of the world. I struggled with the concept and the prospect of the unknown, the ultimate panic that after all this grandeur it would merely disappear into nothingness with all our thoughts, memories and experiences being futile and lost. You ask anyone if they want to be younger and the answer is always a big yes, but with the prerequisite of being able to know what they know now. We grow by our experiences, we travel through the world and we feel love,anger,hate and all other emotions as well, but all to often whilst we live we seem to do so forgetting that everything in the world is impermanent. The impermanence of life acts as a reminder that all we have is the present moment, emotions, relationships, sex, security, our lives, even our children, all of it is impermanent.
This past weekend I went to a funeral, it was for an old man who was always a big believer in me. The Jews are known to be flamboyant at times, but I must say the way we bury our dead just seems right. A Jewish burial is done without pomp or very much ceremony, every Jew gets exactly the same burial right down to the simple pine coffin. It is said that the greatest deed one can do is to accompany and assist in a burial, the reasoning for this is that it is the one deed that we perform where the person is unable to give us anything back in return. Watching the funeral this weekend and saying my farewells reiterated for me just how impermanent everything is. The 3 brothers who had been involved in a massive feud amongst themselves found it possible to let their anger go and rather chose to support each other. At the foot of their fathers grave whilst witnessing the sheer fragility of life they realised the futility of their emotions, they used the mortality of life as a motivator to allow their anger to diminish.
The following is an extract from the book "Shantaram":
"It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love
and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant
while I was chained to a wall and being tortured. I realized, somehow, through
the screaming in my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I
was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them. It
does not sound like much, I know. But in the flinch and bite of the chain, when
it’s all you’ve got, that freedom is a universe of possibility. And the choice you
make, between hating and forgiving, can become the story of your life."
What the above extract so eloquently reflects for me, is that all to often we forget how fragile life is, we dwell on the insignificant and we loose sight that we can allow our emotions such as hate, anger and even pain to be impermanent. I am trying to focus on the day to day of life, wanting to live within the present, but I too have fears. I find it able to overcome some of those fears, whilst others seem more daunting and take me a little longer. I am preparing to tell my Mom about my sexuality, this would be a huge step for me. Previously I believed that for me telling my parents was not something I needed to conquer now, but standing beside that grave and watching the son's bidding farewell to their father, I realised, that I want and need for my parents to see the whole me. Who I choose to sleep with does not distract from the person I am, but while I conceal this from them I find that I am limiting them from fully accessing my life, I even feel that they are missing out on the best part of me. My hope is that they too will recognize the delicate nature of life and look past stigmas, remembering whats important and finding it within themselves to accept me unconditionally.
I now too sit with the difficult role of trying to explain mortality to my children, but I want to do it from a different stance to what I grew up with. I want my children not to view death with fear or to see it as finite, but rather to see it as a reminder that we are alive now, to live in the present, grasping it with vigour and excitement. Just like life, just like the journey I find myself on, we can never know what awaits us, sometimes we just need to have faith in something bigger than us and maybe in that we will find something eternally permanent.