10 November 2014

The Question to the Answer

(in wistful response to Douglas Adams, whom we lost too soon*)

On November 9th, 1972, at 4:10 PM Pacific Standard Time, in a delivery room at Group Health Hospital in Seattle, Washington, USA, a Death was born. There was nothing remarkable about this particular Death except to me: It was my Death.

I arrived slimy and huge and "uglier than hell," according to my dad.

"No! You were perfect! All ten fingers and all ten toes and MINE!" my mother would retort.

What no one ever noticed, in the joy of a first baby, was that as surely as the infant me coalesced into humanness, I arrived shrouded in my newly minted Death.

We all do--that is the way with mortality. At each Birth, a Death is born. And yet for most of us, we try to ignore that basic human fact. I, too, have pushed my Death aside; at least once quite literally, or so it seemed. But whether I've been feeling well or ill, for the last 15 years I've been haunted by thoughts of my Death.

I'm a Scorpio, and that's supposed to be our thing, and while my Death was born on November 9th, so was I, and this year my birthday fell at a time when Pluto and Mars and a full moon (death/rebirth, vigor/strength, and a spotlight on your soul) all came together, enhanced by the strongest sun spots in 25 years, and some conjunctions particular to my own birth chart.

Coupled with Amelia to open my mind, this was a potent energetic marinade. Two nights before my birthday, nonagenarian Spackle and I were out walking and I realized that the gift he will be leaving for Ian and me is that of our biggest loss. When he goes, we will be heartbroken. Without knowing Loss, you cannot know Life, Spackle seemed to say to me as I wept preemptively, following behind him as he limped around the perimeter of the dark lawn in front of our beach shack. He sniffed and sniffed, fully invested in his olfactory observations.

"Pluto Pup," I sniffled at Spackle as we went back inside to continue our fireside meditations.

When will I figure out how to get rid of this fear of dying? I thought despairingly. It's frustrating, draining, exhausting, boring even, to still be fearful, having learned from long experience that it does no good at all. None.

As I sat and watched the fire, willing it to burn the chaff out of my soul, I thought about being born, and how that event started the countdown to Death. I thought about the shroud we put around bodies for burial, an ancient tradition meant to cloak and protect the departed in the afterlife. I began to realize that the shroud of Death that we are born with is the opposite: its purpose is to protect the soul  and the spirit in Life.

Because the thing about your Death is this: it's yours, and yours alone. No one can take it from you. You won't die anyone else's death. The time of your end may or may not be preordained; you may or may not control it. Most people don't, but everyone has that option. Regardless, it's going to come when it's going to come. But here is the other thing: in the meantime, Death knows that your time here is limited, and Death wants you to revel in it! To feel--cleanly and without regret or fear or judgment--the exquisite range of human emotions.

When will I figure out how to get rid of this fear of dying? When will I truly Live?


Yes, of course, this dog grave for Pluto, Friend to the Whole World, is just across the drive from the little cabin in which I mulled the Question to the Answer of the meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything. 

*although, at his right time.

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