When previous girlfriends had complained about the potential demise of a loved one I would respond back with some mystical conundrum about death being an illusion, nay, a super-illusion. ‘We all have to die someday.’ I would respond coldly.
I knew this as a fact as I had attended lots of Buddhist teachings about death and dying, and the illusory nature of the self. Then one day I experienced the loss of my Father, and the shock and surprise, as the truth suddenly dawned on me. Death sucks. I had thought that my Buddhist teachings would cushion me from any sense of suffering for when that fatal time would come, that I too would experience what is inevitable for all of us.
I asked my friend, ‘What’s a funeral like?’ ‘erm, yes, it’s ok.’ But he lied. And thus I am dragged into the world of fatal inevitability as I experience loss and grief while passing the middle-of-forty brow heading towards the great fifty.
Death hurts and it’s a profound tragedy that pulls and contorts in different ways, each one of us handling its different effects depending on our personal support, social, and psychological makeup. It wasn’t just the loss of my father but also my refusal to accept my own passing that would lead to my death anxiety.
I had managed to twist and turn any spiritual teachings I had received into imagining me, squeezing into my consciousness, somehow, out of my body, and straight into heaven, or nirvana, or that big bright light that is supposed to appear like the very first time man witnessed sunrise as a conscious being. I am. And all is.
The important point is that however or whatever I thought I could do, it would be as ‘continuous wakeful consciousness’ passing effortlessly from one realm to t’other. I thought about it a lot. Maybe too much. And always as a means of avoiding my own demise. I consoled myself with ‘The Bible’ for a while. Annoyed as I was with the Buddha for not telling me that death sucks.
I had to freely admit why on earth the obvious hadn’t hit home while watching the news every night. Tragedy was everywhere. I dove back into ‘The Bible’ again looking for answers until I came across a paragraph that said all human beings fall into sleep, and only then, if they have done great service, are risen from the dead.
My plans for a smooth transit were scuppered. I double-checked the Buddhist notion of reincarnation which mentioned that it was like one candle flame going out, and another lighting up, and I would imagine myself somehow squeezing my consciousness into that last burning ember, the one that jumped from wick to wick, but I knew I was kidding myself.
Eventually I came to accept it, about five years later, after my father passed away. Different than I had thought before. Death is the end of everything. A brief hiccup on the landscape of reality. Back to being a full stop.