Meditating today on Lazarus Saturday, a major feast for hundreds of millions of Orthodox Christians and the start of Holy Week, I wanted to share my thoughts on death. How much we fear it. Hate it. Deny it. Avoid it.
Fear of death has gripped the world in a way like never before. Thanks to this highly contagious coronavirus, fear of death has ground everything to a halt.
Why do we fear death? Is fear of death is natural, instinctual? Is it because death is unknown, and it is natural to fear what is unknown? Or do we fear death because we have been taught to fear it?
Every day we are being bombarded with news of death from this novel coronavirus. And people fear death. I want to be very clear. I am absolutely am NOT encouraging people to go out of their homes and recklessly spread this virus around! Absolutely not! Follow the rules! Stay home! Save lives! Life is precious! #flattenthecurve The point of this piece is about becoming aware of thoughts and understanding of death. For in understanding, fear dissolves naturally. When fear is gone, we are able to live life more freely and fully.
If fear of death were natural, you’d see it nature. But fear of death doesn’t plague animals. Only us humans. Zebras don’t suffer PTSD. Fish don’t die of panic in nets. Cattle, pigs, chickens, and turkeys don’t rise up in anger and vengeance for our slaughtering billions of them to feed ourselves.
We are the only ones who have a problem with death, a propensity to fear and resist a natural cycle of life, death, and rebirth.
I think the ideas we have about death are what cause fear. And we always have a choice in what we think. We are free to choose thoughts that bind us, disempower us, and keep us in fear. Or not.
Steve Jobs offers a great example of someone who chose freedom. By accepting death, he rose above fear. Something amazing happened when he embraced his death. He was uplifted, into inspiration. To live more fully. To love more deeply. To never stop trying to make the world better. On his deathbed, intubated, unable to speak, he grabbed a sketchbook to figure out ways hospital equipment could be better designed. Without fear holding him down, he was able to rise up and see something others could not. At the very end, his last conscious words when he saw what he saw: “Oh wow oh wow oh wow,” his sister said. “Death didn’t happen to Steve. He achieved it.”
My own experiences with death
When I was 6, I had a little dog, a toy poodle. I was deeply in love with him. He was my constant companion. He slept with me every night. And then he died. Every night for years after, I cried myself to sleep, missing him so.
When I was 8, I brought home from horse camp a sweet little gray tiger-striped runt of a kitten who sought me out and climbed into my lap. I raised him with joy. One day I noticed he was sick. But no one would listen to me, until it was too late. While my family watched sports on TV, I sat alone with him in the back hall. He died in my arms of pneumonia.
When I was 9, my grandfather died. My grandmother came to live with us for a several months. Then my grandmother died.
When I was 10, my dad died. So many people I did not know came to our house. Many cried. At the funeral, my sister cried nonstop in the basement of the funeral home. She refused to come upstairs. She was 20, and had not been on good terms with Dad before he passed.
Eventually, Mom wiped her tears away and came to get me, took me by the hand, and brought me upstairs to his open casket.
“Doesn’t it look like he is taking a nap on the couch?” she said.
No, I did not think that at all. I knew he wasn’t there. Because of a gift I’d been given.
A gift of information
A week or two before his sudden heart attack, I was blessed with the gift of a premonitory dream. I dreamt my dad fell off a huge bridge and died. It was so real I screamed and woke up. It was 3 am. What a relief, it was just a dream! I relaxed and went back to sleep. The dream picked up right where it left off.
I was standing at the top of the huge bridge Dad had fallen from. His body was still falling through the air — and then arms came out to catch him. Next I saw him standing, far away, across a big divide. He was on the other side. Three people stood beside him. His mom, dad, and his brother who died at Iwo Jima. Very far away, they all turned and waved at me, up on the bridge. Dad was alive. And not alone.
Two weeks later, standing at his casket, holding my mom’s hand, I could see his body was just an empty shell. I knew the truth: he’s free, still alive, OK.
For a moment, I was confused at all these people crying. I thought funerals were for the dead. I looked around, watching all these people crying, and that’s when I realized no one was crying for him. For my dad. All were crying for themselves. For their own loss. Just like I cried at night, missing my little dog.
Let’s be honest. Is it death what we’re afraid of? Or is it our own loss that we fear?
Lots of evidence we’ve got this death thing wrong
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know Adriane Hartigan von Strauch. As she was growing up in Germany she had a very strong desire to visit New Zealand. At the first chance, she went and eventually met an older native man to whom she felt an instant warmth. He invited her to his home and then she remembered. She recognized everything there. Including him. He had been her twin brother. She had been his twin sister — who died in the influenza epidemic of 1918.
My dear father-in-law died on the winter solstice of1997. During the overnight, candle-lit vigil in the church, I went to his open casket after an hour of sitting with him in silence. With tears for this man who I loved as much as my own father, I whispered “I love you, Dad.” Clear as a bell, I heard his voice respond: “I love you, too, doll.”
A year later, my mother-in-law, Vicky, had on her bedroom dresser framed photos of the family. Her children, grandchildren, and a picture of her beloved husband, Joe. Every afternoon, returning home from work, the picture of Joe was turned around. It happened every day. One day her daughter came to pick her up to go shopping.
“Marie, come here and see this,” she said from her bedroom. “See these photos? Notice how they are sitting.” Marie observed them all facing the room. They went out shopping. When they returned, sure enough, Joe’s photo had been turned. Marie witnessed it.
“OK, Joe,” Mom said out loud. “I know you are here. You can stop now.” The picture never turned again.
Vicky is on the other side now, too, and we know for sure she and Dad are having a great time. I have heard her distinctive laugh multiple times.
HINT: The trick to being able to perceive them on other side: it’s like a radio station. They’re up in the happy channel. Can’t hear them down in sadness or grief.
A few years ago I had the good fortune to meet Irene Kendig, author of a fascinating book called Conversations With Jerry And Other People I Thought Had Died. They didn’t die, they told her clearly. They’re still alive.
Esther Hicks and her husband Jerry Hicks have also connected to many people on the other side. For more than 35 years they’ve been receiving incredible and useful information about the universal law of attraction, from a collective of nonphysical teachers, on how to harness an unlimited energy supply, tap into the Source of all wisdom, knowledge, healing, infinite intelligence, and “everything you need to know about Life and how to make it work,” as Neal Donald Walsch said. How all our loved ones and everyone who has ever lived is still quite alive, are very interested in us, are with us here and with us now, without physical bodies. Esther’s Jerry is nonphysical now, too, and intimately involved in co-creating new books and new conversations.
I think Shakespeare said it best. “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” We have our time here and then the show is over, and we go on to new shows. The point is, there is an offstage. There’s a world much bigger than this stage we’re on. More life than this physical time-space reality.
Is this not a good time to meditate, to rethink our ideas of death? To reconsider fear? If life really is eternal — then doesn’t that make what is going on here and now that much more amazing?
What about reincarnation? As an Orthodox Christian, my best source of teaching is the example of Jesus Christ, God incarnate. He wanted to show us something really important about death. Give us good news. That there is life after death. That we can’t kill God. Evil can be overcome. Death is not the opposite of life. The opposite of death is birth. Life has no opposite. Both are doorways, from and back to God. Christ’s resurrection was a demonstration of all of this, that we might celebrate, as the ancient hymn goes, “the death of death.”
Why did Christ resurrect Lazarus?
What better way could God show us the truth about our erroneous thinking about death than by willfully exiting his body (dying) and then returning to it (being resurrected.) Jesus was not the first to try. There have been accounts of resurrection of the dead in the Old Testament, as well that the New.
The most famous person Jesus Christ reincarnated was his dearly beloved friend, Lazarus. Ironically, authorities were not impressed that a man dead 4 days was up and walking around, talking to people about it. Despots never like having their authority challenged. So they set out to kill him. To save his newly restored life, Lazarus had to flee the country. A spiritual and medical wonder, he lived 30 years in his reincarnated, previously dead body, in Cypress.
I find it interesting Lazarus was not particularly thrilled to be back. He reported that all food tasted terrible, was very metallic. That must have been rough. Isn’t the delicious taste of food one of the joys in life? Imagine enduring 30 years— 32,850 — horrible-tasting meals. No wonder he never smiled or joked again — except for once. It is recorded that he witnessed a man stealing a pot, smiled, and said, “the clay steals the clay.”
What a sacrifice Lazarus made, to serve as a demonstration of such an important point God was trying to make.
Yet here we are today. How many of use still are afraid to die? Acting as if life is finite, that an enemy can steal it from us. How much sinful behavior has resulted over the years from a fear of lack of life? From a poverty consciousness —believing in not enough? Instead of trusting in the abundance of every good and perfect gift? How many lies and deceit, thinking we need to defend and protect, to hoard and to steal — as if this life is it? When actually, it’s just a play with a curtain call at the end.
Again, I am NOT in any way, shape, or form proposing or promoting people to ignore health warnings, go out, and recklessly spread coronavirus. We love each other and value life. Plus, it takes time to grow these bodies. They are precious gifts! We all want to be here as long as we can, healthy, and happy. Just without fear.
If we can think of death not as an end, but an exit from the stage. After the lights come up, people go home. We meet backstage. Go out for dinner. Plan a new show, for another day.
All the stories out there about boogeymen and the grim reaper that make us tremble with fear of death? My heart says, that’s all bogus.
What does your heart tell you about it?
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