Last week I posted about my cousin who died unexpectedly in a car accident. Since that time I have had a few wonderful experiences that have reminded me, and even reinforced my belief that we are so much more than flesh and bone. I’ve also come closer to knowing and understanding that there really is no such thing as death. There is only energy transforming, ever changing.
When I was in high school, one of the things that stood out for me, and still pervades in my mind all these years later (30 or so years) was an illustration in my biology text book of the Sun radiating down onto green grass and vegetation, a standing deer eating the vegetation, then a dead deer decaying and returning to the earth producing lush greenery and vegetation, surrounded by a series of red, circulating arrows showing the cyclical life, birth and life cycle of energy. The caption read something like, “Energy can never be created nor destroyed, only transformed into another expression of energy.” I was a horrible student in H.S. I never paid attention in class, always drawing and writing notes to my friends. So the fact that this image stood out for me and actually sparked a philosophical thought process that still matters to me today is pretty profound. The picture to the left is about as close to an image I could find to the one from my memory.
I was brought up Catholic, but what Catholics believed and taught about death just didn’t sit right with me. It’s funny that this image from a high school science text book produced more spiritual insight within me than any of the catechism I was forced to sit through for so many years. Maybe that’s the reason the Creationists have so much trouble with Science in the school curriculum. Because it makes more spiritual sense than, well – much of the bible.
Over time I came to believe that there really is no death. There is death of the body, but no death of consciousness, no death of the self. What we go through is a constant transformation in life, out of life and back into life again. I like the Hindu description of the journey of the soul. In a lifetime we are one drop of rain, an individuation of the ocean, but when we die, that drop of rain meets the ocean and returns to wholeness, only to start the cycle over again one day.
When my grandma died I was 18. It was the end of January and on the night of her visitation the world around me seemed like a vacuum, time froze, the outside air was perfectly still. Lazy, large snowflakes floated out of the night sky, dipping back and forth. Every street lamp shined like a beacon straight up into the heavens. All the members of my family saw it on our way to Grandma’s house. We were ecstatic. Others who had arrived at the house said they saw it on their journeys too. Everyone was practically singing about how Grandma showed us she is in heaven and everything is fine! It brought a tremendous amount of peace to those who were open enough to see it. I remember it like it was yesterday, but what stood out for me most was how peaceful the air was around me.
I had a similar experience 27 years later, last Tuesday, while walking down the snack aisle in Trader Joe’s. After I got the news of my cousin’s death, I needed to go outside and get some air. I walked a couple blocks to the grocery store and as soon as I walked inside everything came alive, vibrant and perfectly still simultaneously. The music overhead was familiar to me, but it resonated in a way I had never heard before, as if it was three-dimensional, tangeable. It surrounded me, and moved through me. The song was insignificant on its own, Elton John or someone, but my experience of it was incredible, indescribable. My body was humming, I could feel my hands, the energy, my aura. In my periphery, the collection of dried fruits and trail mix bags to my right glistened like jewels in a cave. I started laughing out loud, I couldn’t help myself. I was so touched and moved by that moment. I thought of how anyone witnessing me would have thought I had lost my mind, and in a sense I did for a split second. What I had been given in that moment, the Buddhists call Satori, no mind, a glimpse of enlightenment. I couldn’t believe I was having a profound spiritual experience in a prepackaged, manufactured and mass marketed environment. Instantly I knew it was my cousin Jeremy seeing the world through me, showing me what it really feels like to be alive. Just as my grandma had done so many years ago, my cousin was showing me the irony that what we think of life and death are actually the extreme opposites in reality.
It took me almost 30 years to fully understand my first experience from my grandma’s death, but this time I got it. I’ve had profound experiences after the deaths of three of my cats while listening to the radio, driving around and “getting on with life.” All three times, the songs on the radio, one after another were so significant to the animal that I had just said goodbye to. The first time it happened, I was compelled to pull out a pen and write down each song to make a playlist. The second time I pulled out the pen just to see what would show up. Significant, uncanny and meaningful songs filled my ears and my heart. The third time was after a kitten we had for a month died from FIP, and sure enough, even though we didn’t have much time together, the songs that played on the radio were songs of love, life and loss, significant and reverent. Many would call me delusional, but that’s their loss. Life is constant, changing and magical. Even when someone we love leaves the body behind, they remain, constant yet transformed and ever changing. So the next time you see a shadow out of the corner of your eye that reminds you of a cat, or dog or other pet that you once lived with, don’t shrug it off, open up to the possibility. Allow the magic to transform you and your life as well. After all, we are all just stardust dancing on the head of a pin.
“The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.”
― Carl Sagan