AS WE WALK the path of life, we reach a point where some—perhaps many—of those who have walked with us are no longer there beside us. Anxiety, grief, and loss, we learn, are as much a part of this mortal journey as are joy and laughter. Death has touched me recently—again—and I will be saying goodbye to an old friend this weekend. In my book ‘Old Turtle: Questions of the Heart,’ a woman asks Old Turtle about this part of the journey:
‘Now the Old Woman, stooped by the weight of years and of loved ones lost, asked, ‘And what of death, Old Turtle?’
Old Turtle’s voice became even softer, and her eyes blinked slowly. ”Death is but the shadow cast by our living,” she said. “It comes to all of us. Yet because we love, it causes much fear and pain.
“Some fear that in death we may dissolve into nothingness, as if it were from nothing we had come. But it is not in the nature of things that something comes from nothing. These trees that brush the clouds did not come from nothing, nor did the clouds themselves, neither the rose nor the stone, the river or the raindrop. All things that are, come from something and someplace that is. There is no great nothingness to claim us. Rather, in death we merely return to the source of our life.
‘Others worry that in death we may be all alone. But our lives issue forth from a living root that nourishes every branch and every blossom, each connected to the other. All those we have ever loved and lost are blossoms that have bloomed and fallen, returning to the root that gave them life. In joining them how could we ever be alone or lost? Death is but the shadow that life casts. It is always with us, and to fear it is to fear life itself.”
The Old Woman’s eyes glistened, and for a long time the people sat in silence, breathing the perfume of the flowers, resting in the dancing shadows of the trees…’
(Old Turtle: Questions of the Heart, and all my books, can be found at www.douglaswood.com)