"We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don't really get solved. They come together and they fall apart."
— Pema Chödrön
A few months ago my 15-year-old dog rather suddenly became ill and I made the very difficult decision to end his suffering. It was heart breaking and mysterious. One moment he was looking up at me, tense and confused. The next moment his body relaxed and he was gone. Exactly one week later my sister called me to let me know that my mother had died. I recall thinking how the timing of these two events, exactly one week apart, seemed so peculiar. Death has never made much sense to me and throughout my life I have done my best to avoid thinking about it; and yet I have dwelt on its heavy wet- blanket quality in equal measure. People have passed away in my life, a few friends died tragically young, grandparents passed from age and hard living. People I trusted to tell me the truth, like Peter Jennings, stopped appearing. However, it's not until you lose the energy of an entity's influence over your life that death can really take hold and have a lasting impression...at least for me. We live and we die, we come together as a collection of energy particles, and then we slip back, hopefully slowly, into the stellar wind as particles orbiting the sun. Death, I think, is life's way of saying: hey look, this life stuff is a tenuous thing, so take note of its inherent beauty, relish the time you have and get out of the way so that you can love deeply.
I suppose death opens the door for more life and while the loss is indeed poignant, there is a beauty in the stillness that comes with the passage. I will miss my mother; she taught me how to play, to run barefoot in the rain and she knew me in a way that no one ever will again. I will miss Thorax; he was one of the most mischievous and charming entities I have ever come across in my life...we shared countless days outside filled with sunshine and being connected in the unique way a dog is to its human.
I am reminded of one of my favorite Joni Mitchell songs, "Hejira":
...We're only particles of change I know, I know
Orbiting around the sun
But how can I have that point of view
When I'm always bound and tied to someone
White flags of winter chimneys
Waving truce against the moon
In the mirrors of a modern bank
From the window of a hotel room...
There is tragedy in death but there is also such potential and a holistic kind of beauty.
With great affection,
John Merideth - Summer 2011