Reflections On Living and Dying

Take care of the children,for they have a long way to go. Take care of the elders, for they have come a long way. Take care of those in between, for they are doing the work.

–African Proverb


Although the summer is only half over, it has been eventful.


In the space of a month three extended family members passed away. The youngest was just twenty years old; two elders, one in her late eighties and the other in his mid-nineties also departed.


There have been numerous lessons in these events, some of which I am still integrating. Here are some that I can share:


• It is sad when an elder passes. We suffer the loss of someone in our family who has meant something to us, who has contributed –for better or worse– something to our journey. They may be the last of their generation and that reminds us of our own impeding rendez-vous with death.


• The presence of death demands that we review our lives to make sure that we are living them according to what is most meaningful, what is most purposeful, what is most urgent. Death always asks us to consider: "Are you doing what you came here to do? Are you using the great gift of life to the fullest?"


• When an older person dies it is a sad event. But that death remains within the natural order of things. The tapestry of life continues to unfold as it should. When a young person dies the tapestry is irreparably torn. The loss of our children is an ordeal that no parent should ever have to experience.


• Death brings out the best and worst in people and families. It can be an agency for greater solidarity, deepening compassion, community building and generosity of spirit. It can also reveal pettiness, divisiveness, and mean-spiritedness. Death is an agent of revelation.


• The outpouring of love and support from friends, especially young people, who supported my nephew during his illness was deeply moving. Hundreds of young men and women paid tribute to him through their ongoing support before, during, and after his passing. Most of all, the loving kindness extended by his siblings and cousins touched my heart. It says a lot about my nephew. It also says a lot about the quality of people he had around him.


• Family is more important with each passing day. If the family is not close or has unreconciled differences, what is one small step that can be taken every day to bridge the differences? Such steps do not have to be transformational in themselves. Just a small step that is easy to do, and taken every day can lead to a breakthrough.


• We have a tendency to fall into magical thinking about our own mortality. No one is indestructible. We need to remember to "Live each day to the fullest."


May all my departed relations rest in peace in the Shimmering World.



© Patrick O’Neill 2010. All rights reserved

Posted on August 9, 2010 and filed under Uncategorized.