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Collage by Shelley Klammer
The Creativity of Death : Page 2 of 2

The Creativity of Death

continued from page 1

Meeting Suffering and Death

"The essence of love and compassion is understanding, the ability to recognize the physical, material, and psychological suffering of others, to put ourselves 'inside the skin' of the other. We 'go inside' their body, feelings, and mental formations, and witness for ourselves their suffering. Shallow observation as an outsider is not enough to see their suffering. We must become one with the subject of our observation. When we are in contact with another's suffering, a feeling of compassion is born in us. Compassion means, literally, 'to suffer with.'" —Thich Nhat Hanh

When the cancer made it impossible for him to be home, I realized that most people, including my father feared death. Most people in our modern culture do not want to see it or speak of death. People do different things around death — everyone has different coping patterns. Given our cultural fear around death, it was challenging for many to move closer to my father when he lost his hair, his thinking and his dignity.

My Dad's brother and my Dad both had the exact same dream about a week before he died. They both dreamed that my father had fallen overboard from a boat and that his brother could not save him. I considered that life was preparing all of us for his death and I was grateful. I also considered that I might have been offered a heart opening years earlier so I that could move closer to my father during his last and difficult days. Life is strangely supportive and in its own way it provides the information and the solace needed for difficult times. Because I had my spontaneous heart opening years before, I was intensely reverent at the unseen mysteries around my father's death.

I sat with my dad in the hospice the day he died. We had a quiet afternoon together with no other visitors. My little daughter — almost two years old at the time — sat on his bed and shared his tray of lunch with him. After days of speaking anxious morphine induced gibberish about planes taking off and leaving, he grew quiet. We shared silence together not words. He smiled at my daughter grabbing food with both fists off of his plate. I knew he was going to die, and without speaking I let him know it was okay for him to go. When I left the hospice I knew I would never see him again. When I arrived home I got the call and I turned around and drove back to see him lying dead — his spirit had vacated his body and only the shell of him lay on his bed.

When I went to the hospice to pick up his personal effects the next day the nearby church bells started to melodiously ring and I looked at everyone on the busy street and silently implored them. "Wake up! Don't waste your life! Be your deepest self." I realized that I was speaking to myself. The gift of my father's death was, I began to listen more to the unseen and to trust my intuitions more. I began to let my life unfold in Its creative mystery so that It could speak to me and let me into Its larger life patterns instead of trying to control everything so much.

My father's spirit had left his body but our connection continued. I remember two instances that matched the energy of that initial heart opening. One was at his funeral. I was in the next room breastfeeding my daughter. His energy at once entered the room and unmistakably he was there. There was a lightness to his particular flavor of soul essence that felt different than when he was alive. His energy was often heavy laden with much sadness and anger when he was alive. At his own funeral, he felt free.

The next episode occurred on my birthday a year later. Before my father had died, he had gifted me with his car. Six months earlier I had sold it to a young girl in the mountain valley where I lived and had not seen it since. On my birthday I was sitting at my kitchen table feeling sad and I got the directive, "Drive to the Co-Op." It felt so powerful, I obeyed even though there was nothing I needed to buy. When I arrived I saw his burgundy car parked out front and I started to laugh! I thanked him for the birthday visit.

I have been reflecting back this month that here are many creative mysteries that are trying to be revealed in this world — each and every day. We have a choice to see them and follow them or not. When we do follow our deeper inclinations and our seemingly irrational directives, we are met with our embedded place in the Creative Whole of Life.

I leave you with the wise words of Michael Meade:

"Each has the surprising gift of life and each life has to come to the end of life's road one day. It's not simply that 'death must have it's due' but also that death has a place in life. Death and loss must have a place in life in order that life the creation of the world might continue. If we treat death as simply an absence of life, something essential to creation gets lost to our awareness. When seen in the context of ongoing creation, death can be found to have a place in the midst of life and a hand in both renewal and re-creation."

© 2011 Shelley Klammer. All rights reserved.

Shelley KlammerShelley Klammer is a Registered Professional Counselor and an Expressive Art Facilitator. More »