We are surrounded by death throughout life, but we do not know how to bring this reality to light and so death stays in the shadows and lingers there, full of shame and a sense of losing or giving up; a fear of losing status or authority or influence or worst of all loss of dignity and relevance. That is our fault. Many of us are in the the shadowy darkness right alongside the dying because we ourselves are full of shame and a sense of losing or giving up. . . a fear of losing status or authority or influence or worst of all loss of dignity and relevance. The shadowy nature of dying is our own human frailty. Our human nature is that which dies with our body, so we must abandon the human nature to cling to life and survive needlessly. Instead we give our Hearts to absolute LOVE because that is what is GOD and that is what is eternal within us.
This CoVid Crisis has shined the spotlight upon death and it it impossible to ignore or deny the attention it is drawing. Because during our solitary physical distancing and our necessary isolating to preserve our own health and lives there is still the same Samsara-pattern of life and death happening everywhere around us. People are still dying peacefully of old age. Some are still dying because of a massive and sudden heart attack or a sudden and tragic car accident. Some give in to mysterious diseases that share no diagnosis and still some are facing curative treatments that seem worse than death. Some suffer in their minds so greatly that even when their bodies are filled with life they long for death. And somehow, although the ways that Co-Vid has prohibited us from celebrating the joy and hope of death together through our ceremonies and rituals, we have failed to address death with wisdom and guidance and open conversation and acceptance. Why?
And when I am called to the side of a dying soul and am asked to pray, I pray the words below in some form or another, using words of comfort and familiarity when I know their faith, and framing the prayer with the most well known or common terms for the same things I know and share in my own theology depending upon their context. I do this and respect the other names and revelations of God because after the intensive Chaplaincy training during my Clinical Pastoral Education, I began to understand that my acknowledging God in others’ revelations and souls did not and should not diminish my own understanding of God. My God, and my God’s unmerited grace is big enough. It’s why I rest into that Holy Mystery; I may not understand it but I can live into it and trust the truth of what I know: God is LOVE.
So many people ask me how we “should” feel about death and admit to them I’m not sure, but I know that if we did not have the hope of eternity we would be absolutely lost. It took me grabbing hands with Christ to understand the Holy Mystery but Christ does not have the monopoly on peace or revelation. Perhaps others find it through the hands of the Creator revealed in Creation and the Saṃsāra rhythms and cycles of life or through the shiny Spirit sparking light and love within their own hearts; some feel dimished in their faith when they cannot remember a time without YOUR presence surrounding them and I remind them they are reborn every day into new life and that their unbeknownst origin of faith does not mean they don’t already live and breathe with that Holy Mystery. . .
It’s not ours to know details because what happens after death is in God’s Hands and many, as do most Christians, believe that our Spirit is already part of the Holy Mystery and certainly positively proof of that same Holy Mystery breathing life giving inspiration throughout ALL.
—Rev. Paula Daniel Steinbacher