My coworker had a panic attack in my car today. I was driving, we were twisting down the two lane streets of eastern Pennsylvania on our way back from Hershey, passing Amish buggies and trotting horses. She had just received a phone call from her mother who explained that her father had passed out and she was not able to wake him. I watched her as she was swept away by anxiety, fear, pain. The tears streaming down her face she said, “What if something’s really wrong? We haven’t been that close…”
These past few weeks I have been forced to really think about death. Not out of choice — trust me.
Recently, when I discovered I was one credit short of graduating I was forced to enroll in the only course being offered in my major this semester: Death and Dying. It’s a course that analyzes the various philosophies on dying and the process of death. In the few short weeks that I have been in class I have already started to really think about something I never wanted to think about before: the end.
I almost came to the end once, and I don’t mean end of that infamous children’s book I have yet to finish.
When I was 16 years old I had a near death experience. It was frightening for everyone around me but I never felt fear or pain. It happened one day when I had gone to take a big blood test. I was severely anemic at the time and the massive loss of blood cause me to pass out and go into convulsions.
In those seconds that felt like an eternity I rushed towards a bright, yellow, warm, orange glowing circle that looked like the sun. I felt nothing but happiness and moments of my life flashed before me. I was laughing, but not. I was crying, but not. I was just incredibly content.
And then just as quickly I rushed back and I was lying on the floor of the doctor’s office surrounded by my mother and father and medical practitioners. My mother was weeping, “you were gone, you were gone.” I’m probably exaggerating that but it was something along those lines.
And in those few moments I know I died. But I was not ready yet.
So what did I learn from it? I learned to not be scared of dying but I also learned to take advantage of living. These moments are too precious and our time is too short to waste.
This week I have seen some haunting images from the aftermath of the tragic earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan. Once again I have been forced to think about death. What would I do? What would you do?
Some of the best advise I have ever been given was to “never give up faith.” I know it sounds cliché.
Over the years I have wandered on my path of spirituality. When you see tragedies like the one in Japan you do question your beliefs. How could something like this happen? Why? How? What does it mean?
But these are questions we will never know. And maybe this life is a test. Because without pain would we know joy? And without death would we appreciate life? Sometimes all we can hold on to is our beliefs.
“The body’s just a vehicle
Transporting the soul
It’s what’s inside the people
That’s beauty to behold
Fear not of evil
Everyday dem flesh it grow old
Changes of the time take the toll.”
Later in the song he says:
“Life is one big road
Miles on top of miles
So blessed be the soul
That always remains a child
And most people don’t even smile…
The truth is crying out
And it’s so loud and so clear
But most people won’t even hear
Spiritual pollution is in the atmosphere
And with so much confusion
Can one be happy here?”
Don’t fall a victim to spiritual pollution. Never stop believing. And I don’t just meaning believe in God. If you believe in the Universe then believe in the Universe, if you believe in yourself, then believe in yourself. Whatever it is that you believe in- keep believing in it.
There will always be death, there will always be fear, there will always be destruction, wars, natural disasters. And each one of those things are things we cannot control.
So I don’t really know what I am going on about but I know that although it scares me to even try to talk about death, it too is something that I will have to one day confront.
In the end my coworker came to find out her father was fine. She spent the rest of the drive calming herself down.
We learn these lessons and they help us to appreciate life and living…and most importantly, each other.
And I don’t know about the end. But I do know that in the meantime I will keep the faith. I will never stop believing. And I will follow like Damian and his father, Bob Marley, said before him:
“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
None but ourselves can free our minds.
Have no fear for atomic energy
‘Cause none of them can stop the time.”