Death as Part of the Healing Process
We all come to this final moment in our lives. Death, like taxes, is inevitable. It’s a part of life. . .for now anyway. Legends and Biblical texts tell of a time when death was not in the picture of life on earth. My life’s mission has been dedicated to the return to such a reality for all humanity, even if it’s just to hold it in my heart as a possibility, even as inevitable as death is now.
A friend of ours, and of many the world around, John Cruickshank, made his transition from this earthly plane yesterday evening. It was a peaceful passing, what one could describe as a “healthy death.” Sounds like a paradox, doesn’t it? Death, after all, is the complete absence of life, so how can it be healthy? Or is death the complete absence of life?
I prefer the word “transition” we seem to be using more often these days, because, in reality, death is a movement from one level of being to another. Birth, in that sense, is also a transition, one that we celebrate with much joy, as we are doing this afternoon at our grandson’s birthday party here in Ashland, Oregon. Jonahven came to us through his mother Holly Adams and his father, our son John, and what a gift they are to each other. Jonahven came from heaven into the earth, transcended the invisible realm of spirit to incarnate in the visible realm of form. John Cruickshank transcended the visible world of form to return to his origin in the invisible world of a higher level of form. There is form at every level appropriate to each level. Should not both transitions be celebrated with equal wonder and joy?!
Life has its irony. We celebrate the joy of a child’s birth today and yesterday we celebrated the death of a friend with joy and thanksgiving for his full life of service. John was truly a server to all he encountered in his earthly journey; a selfless friend. Notwithstanding an aggressive brain tumor, John’s death was a healthy one. He was at peace in his heart, his earthly journey fulfilled and complete. He died as he lived, sharing his life with others. We who are left behind surely feel a loss. He will be missed. And to process that loss we have the grieving process. If we were aware of the other levels of being, what Jesus referred to as the “many mansions” in the Father’s House, perhaps we would not have cause to grieve the passing of form and could see it as a birthing process into another level of life experience. Life, after all, is eternal . . . is it not?
Speaking of dying as we live, one of John’s friends recently shared a quote that describes how John lived and died:
“Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, ‘What a ride!'”
John slid into Home plate after running all the bases. He was only fifty-eight, so he must have hit a home run early in life, because I don’t think he sat on any of the bases. He was always on the move helping his fellow-man, and changing the world as he went from one ingenious invention to another innovative project. His last project was as part of team who created a machine called Straw-Jet that turns agricultural residue, such as rice and wheat straw, into building materials, specifically, but not exclusively, targeting third-world countries. His most notable invention, however, is the “Sunny-John” which embodies a technology for recycling human waste into manure. His love was permaculture and he left several such gardens behind him during his journey. He was exceedingly well-gifted with a “green thumb” and knew innately how plants belonged together symbiotically (in close beneficial relationships). That was his forte and legacy for which he will long be remembered by many.
The ultimate “cure” of disease
Getting back to our blog theme . . . historically, death has been relegated to the morbid and macabre, an event to be feared and staved off for as long as possible. Certainly as something unhealthy. We’ve even invented and dedicated an entire industry to keeping death away from our door as long as possible . . . and, for the rich and well-insured, at whatever the cost . . . and cost it does, plenty these days . . . sometimes the equivalent of an arm and a leg, like a donor’s heart or kidney. That said, I am thankful, as I’m sure our friend was, for the pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory drugs Medicine provides that helps make the dying process physically, mentally and emotionally bearable and comfortable. Comfort is a good thing. We all need that in times of distress, and especially in terminal illness and the dying process. It’s what we seem to do best as humans.
But what is death, actually (if you will allow me to muse and ponder a bit)? A colleague once described death as “part of the healing process” and a final resolution and “cure” of disease. And so it may well be when you stop to think about it. Tumors stop growing when there is no more life from which to steal sustainable energy. Bacteria, of course, remain. But, then, bacteria are natural and essential to all life processes, both integrative and disintegrative. Mother Earth can put them to good use without Herself becoming infected. Mothers are natural healers.
Tumors, on the other hand, are thieves . . . unnatural growths outside the creative design of life for flesh. I’ve seen them described as embryonic masses growing outside of a womb, an unwelcome guest in our house of being. Death of the host terminates their occupancy. Of course there are certainly other “cures” and resolutions to the diseased state where the host survives the crisis . . . for a season anyway, until another crisis comes along that threatens to resolve itself through death. Either way, the healing process prevails. Life goes on at yet other levels and dimensions.
To make whole
Healing means to make whole that which was previously fragmented, broken, disconnected or dismembered, and therefore dysfunctional. Healing is a re-membering process whereby what belongs together is allowed to be together – much like the plants and trees in Cruickshank’s permaculture gardens – as a whole entity that’s an integral and essential part of a larger Whole. Some call it “God” or the “Great Spirit.” By whatever name called, the larger Whole is what we each are a part of naturally and whatever would keep us from playing our destined roles in that Whole is inevitably and naturally re-solved . . . returned to a solvent state, such as earth and water, where it can once again participate in creation. From “dust to dust,” as Christians are reminded with ashes on their foreheads every year. But the spirit returns to a liberated and functional role as part of the greater Whole; returns to God who created it and maintains its existence.
In this light, death can be seen and embraced by us as part of the healing process . . . and the word itself, like the dying process, could stand to be cleared of its karma and given a noble place in our culture and vocabulary, as well as in our lives. Death, then, looses its sting as it is healthfully and joyously embraced. Hospice is a promising step in that direction.
While sitting with our friend at his deathbed, I was moved to talk about his final step into the unknown and how he was about to have all his questions about death and what’s beyond answered. As awkward as it was at first to even breech the delicate subject, especially with one who was not able to communicate verbally his desire to go there, I felt a certain ease and welcome energy coming from him. Afterwards, I thought how appropriate it could be to engage the dying, while they are yet able to do so, in a conversation around the theme of preparation for death as a rite of passage. A conversation that would, first of all, acknowledge and connect with the angel incarnate who is experiencing, even orchestrating, the process of transition, and one that would evoke the conscious participation of the angel who is about to shed the dis-eased earthly form and take on a lighter one, one that will give the angel freedom to move about with ease. Perhaps using music or the sacred sound of quartz crystal or Tibetan bowls accompanied by toning or chant that would help create ritual space for the generation of buoyant substance for a robust send off. Or even group song and dance to celebrate the momentous event of final passage and transition. While such ritual is being used in indigenous as well as some contemporary settings, I would welcome seeing more of this become part of our way of doing things here in the West and throughout the modern world.
And who knows but what this may well open the way for an unveiling of the mystery of death itself and ultimately eliminate its necessity?! We would simply ascend, taking our bodies with us to a higher vibratory level, leaving nothing behind to be recycled. I envision a ritual space created specifically for this purpose, just as I envision the creation of such a crucible for facilitating incarnation, a vibrational vesica pices (womb) for the birth of new form. It’s all in the Divine Design for the process of transmutation and transition from one level to another. We can agree to let it be so and it will come about. It’s where we are headed in the new cosmic cycle underway, a theme I expand on in Sacred Anatomy – Where Spirit and Flesh Dance in the Fire of Creation. We are in for a new ride on this earth plane and it’s best to let go of the old and let go to the new.
Here’s to your ride!
Anthony Palombo, DC
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