2014 was a rough year for us. We lost a lot of friends. More than usual it seemed. I guess it comes with the territory of edging into your 50s. We also know so many people who are staring death in the eye, and engaged in their own intimate struggle to stay on this path just a bit longer. Between that, and my own brush with the reaper just a few short years ago, I have been ruminating on death and life.
There are many things about the way our culture copes with death that fascinate me. Among those things are the many euphemisms we use to discuss death. Instead of just bluntly telling you someone has died, you are much more likely to hear one of these more colorful alternatives; He/she journeyed home, expired, kicked the bucket, kicked the can, gave up the ghost, bit the dust, pushing up daisies, tripped the light fantastic, pierced the veil, carried away by angels, bought a one-way ticket, bought the farm, breathed their last, called home to the Lord, cashed in, cashed out, climbed the stairway to heaven, crossed over, deceased, departed, entered the eternal rest, entered the pearly gates, entered the sweet hereafter, got their just reward, got their wings, their number was up, gone to a better place, knocked on heaven’s door, laid down their life, left this life, left the building, met their end, met their maker, paid the piper, perished, resting in peace, rung down the curtain, shuffled off the mortal coil, six feet under, slipped away, succumbed, snuffed out, or went to the Happy Hunting Grounds.
But the one that gives me the most comfort, and the way I look at my own inevitable demise, is the notion of passing away, passing on, or passing from this life. An old Quaker saying sums it up best for me,
“I expect to pass through this world but once. If, therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do, to any fellow being let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”
I don’t want to be arrogant enough to think that my soul has learned all it needs to know from this plane of existence, nor do I want to be bold enough to assume that I am worthy enough to keep trying to get it right. I want to treat this like the last chance I get to be kind to those who would be unkind to me and others, to love the people I hold dear, and to leave this place better than I found it. This might be my last opportunity to put what goodness and light my little soul can project out into the universe. I want to do it the best way I can.
And I love the notion of this life being an experience that is passed through and ends in a passing on. I want the people who remain behind to think of me as just having passed away from this life to begin my next adventure. I may not believe in the sort of afterlife that the majority of people do, but I do believe that something came before and something will come after. It may be spiritual in nature, it might be the natural evolution of the sparks of electricity that give us the spark of who we are, but I think many of us feel somewhere deep inside of us that the essence of what makes us US will somehow continue. Even if that essence is nothing more than the lives we touched, the memories of us that live on, the people we loved and cherished, and the accomplishment and legacy of our life…it is a continuance of who we are. It’s a comforting thought, even though some will tell me my belief is likely woven from illusion and desire.
In a very real sense, no matter what your belief, we are all just passing through this way. We will never pass through it again in this form or in this time. We share life together. This is the commonality that we share each moment we live together. It is what binds us inextricably to one another.
So let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.
Peace and Love, yall.