Navigating Death

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Two days ago, we attended a funeral for my husband’s grandmother. She was in her late 90s and while her death was sudden, it was not unexpected, in that we knew she would die sometime in the next few years. Several months ago, Beowulf’s grandfather died and we went to his memorial service. This morning I got the news that one of my cousins just died. She was barely a decade older than I am, and I’m just about to turn thirty. She had been profoundly ill, something involving pneumonia that had led to a coma; they just took her off of life support. I didn’t really know her. We had met a few times, but I’m only close to a couple of cousins on that side of the family, since so many of them are much older than I am. But the news felt like a blow to the heart. I think about her husband, her children, her mom, and ache for them.

Death is difficult. We don’t know what happens to our consciousness when we die, and yet we know that we will all die at some point. We are mortal. This is an inextricable part of who we are.

When I was a Christian, I feared death. Christians are told that we should not fear death, because Jesus and heaven are waiting for us, and yet, many of us have deep and abiding fears of this great mystery. Then, slowly, I stopped believing in hell. I stopped believing in heaven. I embraced the uncertainty – we don’t know – and that absolute terror began to fade. I still fear death, in that I don’t wish to die anytime soon, that normal mortal wariness of the unknown, but it no longer paralyzes me. The stakes of heaven vs. hell aren’t there anymore, and that has made a difference.

The pagan views of what happens next seem to vary, though reincarnation seems to be an option that many consider. It’s certainly a possibility. I am content with hoping that our souls do not end in oblivion, and letting the other side of the veil take care of itself.

When someone I know dies, I tend to light a candle, and wish them well on their journey. I ask that those who love them and are waiting for them will greet their soul on whatever happens next. It’s all I can do.

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