Grace & Grit: A Book Report, plus other thoughts on dying and livingI finally finished Grace & Grit last evening, the moving account of a woman's death. The woman was married to one of the finest philosophers of our generation, Ken Wilber, and the struggle that they go through and ultimately, the merger they attain is astonishing to witness--almost 20 years later.
Wilber is renowned for his work in integrating religious philosophies into a singular philsophy of man and god. I love his work but to witness his transformation as he cares for his wife and to witness her transformation as she prepares for deatth, well, it's hard to speak to how moving it was.
For many years, my only philosophy for how to live was that I wanted a good death. I tried on the mantle of "it is a good day to die" but it never really rang as true. I've lost touch with that over the past couple of years. However, we do grow older as does our family and our friends. The other night I had a dream where George Jones appeared as 'the grim reaper', the 'angel of death' what have you...but I immediately knew why he was there.
Death was never hidden in my family. I sang in funerals from the time I was 10 and when it was spoken of, it was never in hushed tones, but rather in hallelujahs--I'm going home, type rhetoric. Nevertheless, when my grandmother died (my mother's mother), I believe she was afraid. My grandfather wasn't very lucid his last few months and then he fell over dead in the kitchen, so I imagine he didn't have time to experience much fear. (I still have a t-shirt we found of his that my grandmother had used as a dusting cloth and it smells like him--even today.) My other grandmother, my father's mother, was always an ornery thing and was a tough nut to crack. I wasn't around her very much in that final year when her cancer spread so quickly that by the time they diagnosed it, she was given only 6 months or so to live. But I remember hearing that my father was with her every evening until she succombed. I know she wasn't in pain--my father made sure of that. But fear? I'm not sure. I'm sure she went stoicly and quietly into that good night.
As to my own mortality, I still want a good death. But now I also want a good life. I no longer want to live in the kind of fear that keeps me from fully experiencing each moment. Fear of the other side--that constant play of polarity--never going on vacation because I fear the downside of coming home; never really trying anything because I'm afraid I'll fail; and other such nonsense. Because I know in my bones that if you live that way, you'll die that way--and I don't want that kind of death, or that kind of life. I actually want to go snorkeling every year if I can; I want to play tennis even though I'm not very good; I want to record some music so that people can finally stop saying, when are you going to record? I want all those things and more. As much as I believe that Taoist saying, May my wheels will rot off my wagon before I desire to know what's in greener pastures, I also want to no longer be afraid of life.
Ultimately it comes down to this breath, can I be with my Self with this breath, and this one, and this one. Ang Sang Wahe Guru--may every cell of my body vibrate with the Naam--the oneness with God.