It’s been a hard month for deaths. We haven’t yet flipped the calendar to February and already my circle has sustained 5 losses, 4 human and 1 furry. I don’t get the whole death thing. I mean, what the heck is going on here? How can you be there one second, a functioning human encased in skin, and then you simply vanish? Your skin is still there, for a while, but you as you have walked the world for so many years, are not. Hunh? Seriously…don’t…get it.
I have always approached the topic of death from the standpoint of the ones who have sustained the loss. It was only after K’s client died that things lurched off in a different direction, confusing the whole death issue for me even more. What about the person who is dying? I had never before considered that this was an experience for the one leaving as well as for the ones left behind. What is that experience like? Is it like the closing of theatre curtains with a growing sense of darkness, a pin prick of light and then POOF! Nothing? Is it similar to the sensations of a baby moving down the birth canal to leave the enveloping, safe darkness of the womb (skin) for an evermore expansive existence? Is it like the cracking of a shell that brings with it a sense of relief and release? At the end of it all, do we feel more stretched out and free? DOES IT HURT?
My client, who recently had to put down his most special and amazing dog, Chester, has complete faith in the afterlife. He believes that those we love, human and otherwise, continue to exist and always send us messages of connection. Like leaving calling cards, those who have moved on let us know they’ve “arrived” safely and are still with us, but in a different, non-corporeal kind of way. The trick for us is to go to the “mailbox”, to open our hearts, and to receive these messages. Chester let my client know he was okay by leaving a dog cookie in the most unexpected place–a coat pocket where there was no cookie just minutes prior. Others I know have received these messages in the forms of pennies popping up in strange places, and of extraordinary goldfinch sightings. I like this idea. It brings me comfort when the weight of loss presses heavily down on my tender heart.
Maybe death is like the developmental process of the butterfly. Maybe, like the caterpillar, we move into this fleshy cocoon, transforming silently over time and, eventually, break free into a new, more vibrant and expansive form. Maybe the butterfly, like the cookie or the pennies, is our message from somewhere else about how things go, about what to expect and about how it is afterwards. Who’s to say? It’s possible. I won’t know for sure until my turn comes.
For those whose hearts are broken as a result of loss, I leave you this: Look for the “cookie”. Your loved ones are right behind it saying hello, gently tapping you on the shoulder, or sweetly rubbing your back. They’re letting you know they’re still there and always will be.
May you have a blessed, butterfly-filled, “cookie” kind of day.