Since I’ve Learnt To Die

Since I’ve learnt to die, living has become a different experience. This new experience of being alive was made clearer when my father fell on his garden path and never got up again. I had been shopping with some of my children, was returning home on a bus. As the bus was coming down in Combe Martin High Street, I saw Mark my eldest son on the pavement waving me to get off the bus. I got off near my mother’s house, and he told me my father was dead. I immediately went into a mode of self observation wondering how I would feel about this.

I realised I had no sense of pain or shock, or grief. I simply felt that I needed to look after my mother. So I went to her and spend hours with her caring for her. I suggested I would stay with her that evening but she said it was okay for me to go home.

It was dusk as I walked back. I was still feeling calm. As I passed, what I always thought of as the timber merchant and hardware store – Greenaways – I suddenly saw on their shop front that they were also an undertaker. With great impact I realised that here was death in the High Street. I walked on and, being October, there were some fallen leaves from tree is blowing along the road. Again, with real strength, I understood that here was death. Then a little further on a young girl came riding up the road on her bicycle. Now I saw life, eager and beautiful. Still further on a house on my left was lit up with its curtains open so I could see inside. People were moving about within the house, and here once more was life. And then I knew that life and death were with us all the time. There was never any separation, never any time when they were not surrounding us, within us, intimately part of our life.

Since I’ve learnt to see death everywhere as a part of life, living has become a different experience. I realised this while I was listening to a friend tell me how difficult it was for him to sleep. Gradually we uncovered that he has difficulty falling in love too, and also in trusting his own spontaneous feelings. In fact any area of experience which calls upon him to let go of his own self-control, his feelings or his certainty, was seen to cause him difficulties. I recognised the common factor as `death’. Lots of us, for example, call sleep “the little death”. Maybe this is because we cannot fall into sleep unless we let go of what we are thinking, of what we will, and even of the way we experience our `self’ during waking. We haven’t learnt to die, to love and even to sleep.

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