An Anniversary

☆ September 6, 2010


What are your thoughts on death?

I’d love to know.

Here is a passage from my book:

“We romanticize that wild animals enjoy an idyllic life of freedom, when really, they are fighting to survive, for food and shelter and safety and against the infringements of man.  Death serves in nature.  The soil is fortified by the bones; animals and birds and bugs live off the carcass.  In nature, there is honor in being eaten.  To me, the [dead] deer was beautiful in providing its body to the living animals that were trying to survive.  And I believe this works on a human level as well, although it is somewhat taboo in our society.  I believe we can learn to use death, and let the gifts of the dead help us to become stronger.  Our society responds to death by mourning, and usually, mourning is the stopping place.  It is not the stopping place.  I believe there is nourishment and strength to be found, if only we were not so afraid of it.”

What about you?


85 Responses to “An Anniversary”

  1. TerrryPfeiffer
    September 6th, 2010 @ 6:29 am

    At present my thoughts are: Death is a part of life; it is the inevitable end of all life.
    I fear pain and emptiness and sorrow and despair and terror, but not death.
    Death must be a relief; but usually not for those left alive.
    (i realise that my thoughts may change with circumstances and time :))

  2. Erin
    September 6th, 2010 @ 6:40 am

    I think much of the fear of death comes from our understandable fears of the unknown and the uncertain. Most of our lives cannot prepare us for not-living, especially in modern America where we are much more removed from death in our every day lives. Connecting more fully with one’s surroundings, in all sorts of ways, is likely to help see things in a less scary light.

  3. Sue
    September 6th, 2010 @ 6:48 am

    I’m still working on this, but it seems to me it is not the letting go of a loved one that hurts, but trying to hold on. Sometimes letting go is a relief.

  4. Maddy
    September 6th, 2010 @ 7:42 am

    Funny that you bring up this topic. It’s been on my mind for some time now and it continues to be a work in progress.
    I am pushing 70 and not nearly as cavalier about “death” as I used to be. It was easy to be riding a chairlift to ski down some big peak in my middle years, or hiking to some high peak thinking…”I must make the most of this because “one day it will all be gone.” I worked in ICU’s for years. I encountered death very frequently, sometimes daily. The problem is “one day for me” seemed so very far away. I was young enough and not high risk…yet.
    “That” day is closer that I would like to think now. I am retired but work one day a week helping vets care for wildlife at a clinic. I no longer anticipate “changing jobs, getting an advanced degree, etc.” Now I think in terms of how can I enjoy my declining years to the max. I can see the “end” coming. It is no longer in the far distant future. The aches and pains of aging are a constant reminder that we don’t have all the time in the world.
    When I ski now, it is novice terrain. I struggle to climb smaller peaks, etc. I wonder if I should get another dog when my two pass because I don’t want to leave the poor thing orphaned. Of course we could die and any time regardless of age, but somehow that doesn’t seem likely when we are younger. It happens to others but not to us. Everything changes when you are pushing 70 and then 80. Now is the time I am facing the fact that life really does end and it’s all too REAL. I will freely admit I am not liking the idea but trying to deal with it as best I can.
    It’s inevitable but I don’t think most of us are really looking forward to the welcoming the grim reaper.
    My vet once told me re:euthanasia for my old sick pup that it’s NEVER the right time. You always want that one more walk, that one more cookie. This is where I am at the moment. I still want that one more walk…
    I seriously doubt that I will ever be “ready”.
    I remain very active in the great outdoors, and keep telling myself that I will crawl before I ever ride the “senior shuttle”. I hang out with a few elderly friends who are like minded so that helps but I cannot bear the thought of any of us being sick or dying.
    Yes it’s reality, but I don’t have to like it.
    I’m not leaving the light on for the “reaper” and probably never will.

  5. andrea
    September 6th, 2010 @ 7:52 am

    Thank you for your thoughts Maddy, its very rare to hear someone speak honestly on this subject. It definately gives me something to think about as I age (I’m only 29).

  6. Marg
    September 6th, 2010 @ 8:07 am

    I’ve been thinking about death a lot lately as well due to some serious illnesses in people around me. How would I react if I was the one going….accepting or kicking and screaming all the way. My children are grown and on their own so they would be ok with my absence. My husband would be lonely but there are always lots of single ladies to get him back in the swing. My thoughts seem to be not of me but of those I love and would be leaving. I had a “mini” near death experience a couple of years ago and I just felt sadness but no resistance, like it didn’t matter. Not so sure if I was looking forward to an afterlife or just an ending and really not sure which I would prefer.

  7. janaki
    September 6th, 2010 @ 8:53 am

    unless i fully embrace the inevitability of death, it’s difficult to embrace living because most of my energy is spent ignoring or denying death, and so i’m not fully experiencing my life.

    that’s not to say i don’t fear the idea of not being here anymore and even more compelling fearing what happens after death, but i make an effort to fold that into the buffet of thoughts, images and emotions that cascade through my body daily. and when i hold those disparate feelings in the same space, somehow it makes it okay to be exactly who i am at that particular moment. and so the air is sweet.

    i have always suspected, however, that at the moment of death things become clear and returning to the source is gentle and inviting. that may be wishful thinking but i remember reading a book many years ago called ‘life after life’ by dr. moody. it was a collection of near death experiences — people who had been dead and then revived. most of them had out of body experiences and while there were differences there were some startling similarities. they all reported that after some initial disorientation, what lay ahead was inviting.

  8. Jane
    September 6th, 2010 @ 9:01 am

    I wonder about an afterlife. I’ve had strange experiences and saw a ghost with a friend as a witness. When I took a chemistry class years ago they talk that the same carbon molecules have been around since the beginning and just keep getting reused. That made me think that perhaps it is a form of reincarnation. We are human and then a blade of grass… It also made me think that maybe when we meet someone who we feel we’ve known in the past its because in the past we shared many of the same molecules.

  9. carol
    September 6th, 2010 @ 9:04 am

    We have all of the evidence that when death occurs everything is recycled “biologically”. What humans have always sought is evidence that we “spiritually” recycle. We inhabit our physical body, but treasure our individual spiritual being. We would like to think that this spiritual energy survives our physical death. There is the rub…..if it is possible to “move on”, we leave no evidence of this behind. People have attempted to satisfy this unknown by developing every type of “rational” explanation …enter religion.

  10. Ann from Montana
    September 6th, 2010 @ 9:23 am

    TerryP – first commenter said it…

    After reading your post, I was thinking how often I have thought of death (not dying, though..) easily and without fear – as a transition. I believe, with very little doubt, that this earthly experience is just a part of existence.

    But, back to TerryP’s closing sentence, about thoughts maybe changing depending on circumstances…and another’s comment on “one more walk”…my 9 1/2 year old dog received a horrendous diagnosis which I am struggling to keep from ruining however many walks we have left.

    At the moment, all I know intellectually about the cycles of life and all that I believe with my heart and soul about eternal existence are not providing much comfort and I find myself trying to make deals with God more often that I’d like.

    I’d like to stay in that place of peace – unafraid of life’s inevitable transitions – and writing this response has moved me back there…but there are those moments when I feel like that abyss of a change I don’t want threatens to overwhelm.

    Thank you for asking the question. I know I will be back and will find other things that are helpful to me in my own current circumstances.

  11. JP
    September 6th, 2010 @ 9:31 am

    I buried my father last spring and my mother three weeks ago. Now, I am clearing out the family home of 48 years; the keeper of family memories, the place that protected us from the elements, the center of family gatherings. In reality, a third funeral -it’s tough. We can talk about death in any number of abstract ways, but it is indeed a stopping point. My parents were just 94 when they died. That may sound silly, but on some level we all remain ten years old when we’re in our parents’ company. Neither of my parents were sickly and, as strange as it may sound, it seemed, for a while, that they might really go on forever. Other people’s parents died, not mine. And, yet, they did.

    Religion or not, acceptance of the natural cycle of life and finding gratitude for the lives of the people, and the animals, with whom we share this journey is how we all move beyond these pivotal events of loss and continue onward finding our own affirmative path. So, as much as death is the end of one cycle in our individual lives, it is the beginning of another, and this cycle is indeed what sustains life. Life gives us little choice but to embrace this philosophy since, 1) nobody has ever gotten out of this alive and, 2) those who have left us aren’t sharing their secrets … at least in any “hard-core scientific manner.”

    However, when death comes to one’s own doorstep, and is not hidden as a headline in the morning’s newspaper, it is difficult to find comfort in academic discussions. Then again, in this instance, Sue, your words really resonated with me and I thank you …. “it is not the letting go of a loved one that hurts, but trying to hold on”. I will remember this as I say goodbye to the family home.

  12. lynn
    September 6th, 2010 @ 9:33 am

    Although death is a part of nature, nature itself does indeed rebel against it. Impalas flee from the impending lion because they do not want to die. Elephants mournfully hold a funeral procession for their dead matron signifying a deep understanding of their loss. And a human granddaughter chooses not to sit vigil over her dying grandmother because she wants to celebrate her life and not her death. So, while death is a part of nature it is not beautiful. I agree with the author John Gunther – Death Be Not Proud.

  13. Wendy
    September 6th, 2010 @ 10:33 am

    A very close friend died suddenly and unexpectedly two weeks ago. Such shock. Such sadness for his wife, such a change. I feel death is a part of nature and serves some purpose to those of us left behind. Whether it is expected or not, the death of someone close has always reminded me of the fragility of life. This makes me think of those I may have taken for granted, reminds me to tell those I care about how much I love them, forget petty differences, and reconnect with people who have been important in my life. Death also reminds me to continue living as best I can, trying to do the right thing, admit mistakes, live and love true to myself, others, and our nature. I have many things to do in my life, and I want to do them. I may not fulfull all of my passions successfully, but the adventure is in trying, and I want to go to my death with the feeling that I lived a good, true and adventurous life. I hope my death engenders some of these feelings in others.

  14. Karen
    September 6th, 2010 @ 10:34 am

    I’m not sure where it comes from in her but my mother has had a wonderfully healthy attitude about death for at least 25 years (she’s nearly 80 now). I remember passing her open filing cabinet years ago and seeing a folder labeled “Death–Me.” Inside were thoughtful instructions about the music and readings she wanted for her memorial, as well as directions to the spot in the Sierras where she wants her ashes scattered.

    Ten years ago maybe, my mother made her own funerary urn from clay. Around the perimeter are scenes from her life–playing her piano, climbing a mountain, being pregnant with me, giving birth to my brother, dancing–as well as her full name and birthdate. This sits in her family room within full view, not at all morbid or creepy, just honest.

    My progressive Christian faith has tended to focus on issues of justice and compassion in the here and now but as I get older, I find myself drawn to my tradition’s sense of the living reality of the “communion of the saints,” those who have gone before who (to my way of thinking) are all saints because in death they are now completely whole. St. Paul called them “the great cloud of witnesses” and I like imagining them (some who knew me in life, most who didn’t) gathered around in ways I can’t understand, encouraging me and even resourcing me.

    When I was at an important crossroads several years ago and needed all the help I could get to move in the direction I felt called, I created a ritual that included a very impassioned appeal to my long-deceased grandmother and father. “Help me out here!” I shouted, knowing they would. And they did.

    When I was four, my mother and I would take walks every afternoon about the time the school bus came. I had no idea where the school was or what children did there, only that I wanted to get on that bus and go experience what they were experiencing. Whatever it was, I knew it was good. I feel the same way about death. I have no idea where we go or what we do beyond death, but I know it’s deeply good. And I’m looking forward to going too, one day.

  15. Deborah
    September 6th, 2010 @ 10:42 am

    Death is a normal part of life. We are only here for a short while and most of us forget to enjoy it, be in the moment and have faith that we are taken care of while we are here.

    We are all going to experience what comes before death, but do not know when death will come.

  16. Marlene
    September 6th, 2010 @ 10:43 am

    I wish I could think as you do Shreve about death..When I read your words I feel the truth in it..but on a emotional level..I mourn and am sadden by death especially in nature..Yes there is a honor in providing substance to others who must carry on..and In nature that is how it should be..and when humans must leave here..when thier story is done..there is honor in what is left behind..lessons, memories..ect..When I look at death..its not so much the passing of those that leave that I mourn..its the pain of those that remain..who were touched by that life to thier very soul and must carry on without them..that ache and emptiness and raw feeling you feel when they are gone ..and no longer there for you to feel and touch on this physical level..even if you believe as I that we come back in other lives and are reunited does not stop the does not confort the here and now…..It must be the same with animals..I am certain they mourn in thier own quiet ways.. miss thier babies, mates ect..when they leave thier side…that suffering is what I hate the most about death..
    I strongly identify with that whenever I see that deer like you did.. or read about a mother losing thier child…thats the part that gets me…hopefully one day I will see it differeantly…hopefully.. Marlene from Cambria….

  17. Christina S.
    September 6th, 2010 @ 10:43 am

    When I was young I was afraid of death, but I’m not really anymore. I went through a time in my life where I was suicidal; it makes you see death a bit differently.

    I am terrified of people around me dieing, though. My dad was just in a car accident recently and was unhurt, but it still makes you think.

    I’m presently reading your book. :)

  18. Jim
    September 6th, 2010 @ 11:02 am

    A man said “Live your Dream don’t Dream your Life”. Life is to short, as I have found out, the older I have gotten. You could go at any time so live out all your Dreams and go for it till the end. The people you leave behind should celebrate your existence and not your loss. We spend way to much time on what we have lost and not enough time on who we are, what we dream or the friends we have made along the way. My personal opinion is we have created a need for religion and can not accept that this is a one way ticket. So get out there and meet people, see the world and enjoy Life all along the way!!!

    Kinda ramblin but my thoughts,,,,,

  19. sal
    September 6th, 2010 @ 11:23 am

    I believe animal life, as well as plant and inanimate, live within the Creator’s law. The plan that sustains this universe. Living within and conforming to the Law which is just, they are therefore perfect, needing no correction. Having no sense of ‘self’ they operate according to survival and death itself has no meaning for them. As it should have no meaning for us if we have worked to conform to the Creator’s plan for us. Just my opinion.

  20. catherine
    September 6th, 2010 @ 12:01 pm

    I agree with Sal’ s philosophy on this, although the word “Creator” can have many meanings and has started many wars… But what Sal said rings true to me. Lay me down in a field in the mountains and let it happen. I am good with that. No fear.

  21. Lesley
    September 6th, 2010 @ 12:37 pm

    “We romanticize that wild animals enjoy an idyllic life of freedom”

    Not sure this is true and by that I mean “we romanticize”. It’s never been true of me.

  22. Chris
    September 6th, 2010 @ 1:21 pm

    As I move on through middle age, I look back and think on my older relatives and friends who have died. I am an atheist; I do not believe in a life beyond this one. Nonetheless, I have seen how the lives of my beloved dead in a sense overshadow their deaths: their descendants (including me), the homes and businesses they built, the gardens they planted, the books they wrote…

    I still miss them, but Sue had the right of it: it is more painful to not let go than to mourn, accept the loss and move on.

  23. Julia
    September 6th, 2010 @ 1:56 pm

    In Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy, the armored polar bear eats the human aeronaut Lee Scoresby after he dies in battle. The bear knew Lee and had respect for him and yet needed to carry on in the quest they were both on, so the bear ate Lee so he would have the energy to continue. The bear felt he was honoring Lee by eating him.

    It’s actually a really good trilogy and well written.

  24. Meg
    September 6th, 2010 @ 2:18 pm

    I experienced death for the first time when I was 7 years old (I am 25 now), my sister died at 6 years old of Leukemia. I did not understand death at the time but it left a shadow on me. Ashleigh was so very young, but I have yet to even come close to the strength she showed, the perseverance and true bravery. She did not fear death, and was always happy. I still hide behind my fear of death, but as I grow older her lessons show me that death is inevitable, but it is what we leave behind for others that counts. Death can be a time for mourning…or a time for joy and remembrance of a life well lived and lessons passed on to our future generations.

    ~A flower will wilt and die only to drop its seeds so that they may grow and make new life.~

  25. Ava
    September 6th, 2010 @ 2:31 pm

    I find it hardest to get past the grief part. Sure, acceptance comes along in time but once in a while grief still blindsides me out of the blue. Knowing death is inevitable, and probably valuable, doesn’t lessen the grief.
    I can’t say that the prospect of my own death doesn’t daunt me sometimes. In some ways I’m more afraid of the process of dying than death itself. There’s a valuable kernel of truth in Woody Allen’s joke, “I’m not afraid of dying. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” Um, exactly.
    On the (slightly) up side, the concept of being dead myself doesn’t bother me overmuch. I do regret that there will be so many things I won’t be around to experience, or see how they turn out. Very ego-centric but it’s still a bit jarring to realize the earth will keep right on turning despite my absence. I’m pretty attached to this gorgeous earth of ours.
    As for where I’ll be, or there will even BE any form of me, it’s not very scary for some reason. I figure I came from someplace to be born and it worked out okay. Dying is going back to that someplace, or someplace else, or just forgetfulness. No matter how you look at it, everything that lives also dies sometime so it isn’t like a new thing. If nothing else, I’ll be in lots of good company.

  26. Claudia
    September 6th, 2010 @ 2:43 pm

    Shreve, your words describe so well but I’ve been trying to articulate for years. I’ve found that people often struggle to understand that my appreciation for the beauty in death (e.g. providing food to countless other beings through your own flesh and blood) comes from a place of love for all life.

    I mean, how amazing it is to think that after you die, all of those molecules that made up “you” will go into other beings, and then when those beings die, they’ll go into even more beings, etc.

    To me, that’s such a comforting and beautiful concept to think that everything is part of everything else in the end… interconnectedness on a physical and molecular level :)

    It’s also why I try to think about everything that have helped make up the food I eat. Not just directly (e.g. the potato plant that gave me a potato or the person who prepared the food if I didn’t do it myself), but also indirectly (e.g. the person who harvested the potato, the worms that worked through the soil in which the potato plant lived, the plants and animals that nourished the soil in their death, the rain that provided water for the plant, the beings that breathed out the CO2 the plant needed to survive, the sun’s rays and even the clouds that shielded the plant from the sun, and on and on). It just makes me so grateful for all life on this big blue planet of ours. :)

  27. Alice
    September 6th, 2010 @ 2:58 pm

    My thoughts on death are very similar to TerrryP’s (the 1st post). I’m not afraid of dying. I just don’t want it to be painful or long and drawn out. When I go (and this prob. sounds cliche), I want to be doing something that I enjoyed. I tend to be adventurous and enjoy the outdoors. Various people have said “But you could die doing…” I’m ok w/that. I’m having fun. I have no desire to die from cancer or have to have people take care of me for years. It may seem selfish because it doesn’t give family and friends time to prepare for my death, but I would prefer they remember me as a vibrant woman, not as the cancer patient. My dad died from pancreatic cancer when I was in college almost 8 years ago. My family had wanted me to take a bus home b/c they knew it would most likely be his last weekend alive. I refused. I *could* have gotten off from work, but I didn’t want to remember him that way. So instead I talked to him on the phone and my last words to him were “I love you, daddy.” In the end, it didn’t matter because he died before classes were over for the week. I much prefer the memory I have vs. what it could have been.

  28. Claudia
    September 6th, 2010 @ 2:58 pm

    Christina S’s comment on how being suicidal made her see death differently really resonated with me too… even though I am now in a MUCH happier place and have not have those thoughts in well over a decade, I still view death as a peaceful thing, and there is still that aspect of relief to it. When I look back on that time in my life, I recognize that really that was all I was looking for — relief from that pain and suffering, and just experiencing that peacefulness. I now experience much of that in life so no longer feel any need to reach for that, but it also means I don’t see death as a frightening thing — I see the beauty in it. As others have commented, of course there are plenty of things I’d like to see/do/be around for, but in the end, if that’s not how it ends up, so be it :)

  29. Scotty
    September 6th, 2010 @ 3:01 pm

    I watched my heart on the xray monitor as they pushed a catheter up in it to place a stent. Much to the dismay of the doctors I suddenly began to shiver violently because I had become very cold. I tried to encourage them that it would be ok but they were frantic and seemed a world apart. I didn’t see a bright light rather my world had faded to black and I was ok with that. Later in recovery I thought that I had gotten through this and there was no spiritual learning from it. But that very night in the most vivid dream I traveled in the sky over my life and below were all the friends I had ever known. As I passed over them each had nodded to acknowledge my passing. Then from up above I saw myself raise a hefty spear and thrust it down to the world with every ounce of energy I could have. From below I layed on the ground amongst my friends as the spear found its mark directly into my chest, and I was ok with that.

    What I learned was that I was not afraid. Years later, my brother had a much worse heart attack and a stroke. He was placed in an induced coma for two weeks and received a new heart valve. When he came to we discussed that he had been in a very dark and scary place and we were glad to have him back. He tried to explain the horrors of his violent dreams, but the words did not come easy. I said to him ‘one thing you may now know, is that you are no longer afraid of it happening again’. He spoke to me with surprise and nodded in approval.

    What I learned is that when the fist of God comes to pound on your chest, His other hand will cradle your soul, summon your beloved and help you along. When my pets have crossed to the rainbow bridge, be it true or no.. I am comforted by the belief that I will meet them there. When family and friends have crossed over, my only hope is that I was there to comfort and usher them more easily to the place we will all go, and meet again. My tears were only in despair, that I could not travel with them at their time. Thus is the struggle between the spirit and the physical world.

  30. Angie
    September 6th, 2010 @ 3:06 pm

    I know that animals mourn death too.Crows, geese, and elephants commonly express grief in the passing of a loved one. When you mentioned the deer nourishing through death, you touched down on something really important to remember: partnership. Everything works in partnership to survive, and belong together, it’s a balance, and there is an affinity there for all living things (a powerful relationship).
    Instead of seeing death as a be all, end all, maybe it’s just a beginning? I mean even butterflies require metamorphosis. The only think we can be sure of is change.
    ‘Remember that you are the universe… and the universe is you’ Native American Proverb

  31. Angie
    September 6th, 2010 @ 3:08 pm

    Haha, in that last sentence i meant to say “the only THING we can be sure of is change”

  32. Autumn
    September 6th, 2010 @ 4:46 pm

    I can’t agree more. This past January my little brother died in a car accident. I read something I had written at his funeral about how we should honor his life by doing more in our own and being better people. To stop simply at mourning seems selfish to me. A person should be recalled for more than their death and the hurt it brings. We owe it to those we have loved and lost to be happy.

  33. Chris
    September 6th, 2010 @ 5:26 pm

    A poem I wrote some years ago…

    Singing Then, Singing Now.

    Singing then,
    the days fell from an infinite coil:
    like a red kite unreeling in the blue,
    like the gliding grip of a held snake,
    like the dry, warm flow of a teacher’s praise.

    the days came and went:
    like wind over the grass-heavy mesas,
    like brown leaves melting in the orchards,
    like cloud shadows on the hills.

    Singing now,
    six lives that I knew rest against the
    humming earth.
    And through slanting transoms of clear rain,
    I touch the face of my own mortality.

  34. mlaiuppa
    September 6th, 2010 @ 6:08 pm

    We (Americans) hide our children from death. The dog went to live on a farm. We shelter them. Grandma went to sleep.

    How scary that must be. How many children spend a sleepless night, afraid that if they go to sleep, they’ll join Grandma wherever she went.

    I’m 55 years old and have never experienced the death of a close loved one other than our dogs. I was there when my childhood dog had to be euthanized due to pain from cancer. The Vet asked if I’d like to wait outside but I said no. I didn’t want the puppy who spent her life with me to die alone with strangers. It was a good choice I’ll never forget. But I was a mess afterwards. I missed days of work and college classes. But my teachers and professors understood.

    Years later I lost my dog, my own personal dog, my forever dog, to a sudden cancer. I was not there with him. I had taken him to the emergency animal clinic and they didn’t let me have him back. They called at night to give me the diagnosis and he died before I could get there the next morning. I mourned for him too. I still do. I regret I could not be there for him. I believe to his day he died because he gave up living, feeling that I had abandoned him to these strangers.

    I vowed to never do that to any of my dogs again.

    I have attended several funerals. But only to distant relatives or friends of my parents or colleagues from work.

    I have never lost an immediate family member.

    And because of our American culture of shelter and hiding death, of it being a taboo subject to talk about, at 55 years old I know I am unprepared for the time when my parents will die. They’re 80. Both have heart conditions. They’re currently active and in reasonable good health. But at any moment one or both of them could die. They’ve been married for so long (57 years) that I know once one dies, the other will die within the year. Research shows that is most likely.

    The death of an aunt or uncle, cousin or even grandparents you only met a few times in your life cannot compare to the death of a parent. Even the passing of your beloved dog cannot compare, but it is the closest I’ve experienced. If I fell apart and became unfunctional at the death of my dog, how will I react when my Mother or Father die?

  35. Farmer Lady
    September 6th, 2010 @ 6:23 pm

    Due to my doctor being unable to figure out my constant pain… I think of death daily.
    Many days I would welcome it.
    I am not afraid of it anymore.
    I would regret leaving my daughters, though.

    My mother died entirely too early, in my opinion, and I fear I’ve never quite gotten over that loss. Where is she when I have the questions daughters ask mothers?
    Me and my older sister have adapted, and we fill the shoes for each other when needed, but it is not the same, and never will be. It has been almost 20 years… we aren’t over it yet…

    When I take the life of an animal to feed my family, I thank that animal and I try to fully appreciate it. I also try to use every single bit of it, so none is wasted.
    Since I have taken on the role of meat provider for my family, we eat a lot less meat. I’m sure it is much better for us. Before I was the one responsible for taking the life, I would eat more meat than was good for me.
    Now, I make sure that the animal has a good and happy life before that life ends for our consumption.

  36. Dave 23
    September 6th, 2010 @ 6:58 pm

    A friend recently told me that she felt safe and taken care of when out in forest or the desert. My thought is just the opposite.. Mother nature wants to kill me, and everything else to feed something else.. It’s nothing personal really..

  37. Jim Corey
    September 6th, 2010 @ 6:58 pm

    When the pale rider comes for me, I will welcome him with open arms, and embrace him like an old friend, I will kiss his cheeks. To fear your death, is to fear your life; death will come to everyone. It is as important as your birth, the beginning of your life. Death is a part of your life; it is the end of your life. Worrying about your death that will surely come is wasting your life.
    -D. K. Moon, Montana Summer

    When I die, I want my body left out in the woods for the coyotes and buzzards. Maybe I can work it, but if “the authorities” find out, it won’t happen.

  38. Elisabeth K.
    September 6th, 2010 @ 7:10 pm

    I personally believe in heaven, so I know that when I die, I’ll be going to a better place. Death is not the end of a person, it’s the beginning of their journey through eternity. That person lives on, but in a different realm and place. They didn’t die, they simply moved on…

  39. Elisabeth K.
    September 6th, 2010 @ 7:12 pm

    One other question, is there a reason why you’re bringing up death on labor day?

  40. Hilary
    September 6th, 2010 @ 7:51 pm

    I believe something along the lines of the Na’vi people. We only borrow our energy from the earth and in death, return what was loaned us.

    I don’t fear death and while I’ll cry and wallow for awhile when I lose someone close to me, I know that they were here. And I LOVED them.

    And I also like to think that as a last hoo-rah, we get to go to our own funerals. To see how people really felt about us, and to marvel that this or that person came.

  41. Stephanie
    September 6th, 2010 @ 8:49 pm

    Death is a subject I am fairly unfamiliar with one that was avoided at all costs when I was growing up. Great sadness is what I think of when I think of death. As an adult my first instinct is a tightening of chest and a shortness of breath when I dwell on the face that I too will someday journey to that “undiscovered country.” But I would like to know more – more than what was taught to me in church, more than what my mother told me as I cried on her shoulder, this I am convinced is part of our journey, learning, and maybe hopefully over coming our fear. I am not there yet but getting closer….

  42. Roxanne
    September 6th, 2010 @ 9:04 pm

    Since my son died, I still can’t say that I have any answers…to anything. I can only tell you this:
    One night,the month after he died a storm hit. A BIG, beautiful storm. Thunder, lighting, lashing rain, high winds that bent the trees. I had felt pain and I had felt numb, but I felt interested in the storm. I turned off all the lights, watched the lightening flash and I started smiling. I went outside. I pushed against the wind and put my arms around the slick trunk of the tree in my back yard.
    Rain soaked my hair, the wind took my breath, I could smell the electricity in the air. I STARTED TO LAUGH and then TO CRY.
    Because for the first time since he had died. I felt my son.

  43. MK Ray
    September 6th, 2010 @ 9:18 pm

    We’re all on the river heading straight for the waterfall and there is not one thing you can do about it.

  44. Maggie
    September 6th, 2010 @ 10:10 pm

    I feel that when someone we love dies, there is sadness because we miss them, but I do not feel “death.” I feel they have transitioned and are still very much alive, in a different way, and when we’ve moved through the grief and the fear, we are able to sense that they are still with us and sometimes even more present than they were when they were alive.

  45. Adrienne
    September 6th, 2010 @ 11:19 pm

    I think death has two aspects. The first is the cycle of life forms. Death of the old clears the way for the new. It is part of the ever-evolving face of life. Almost all life-forms live off of other life forms. Death is therefore a necessity.

    The second aspect is that of the loss. Loss of all that one has created in their current lifetime. Loss of one’s friends. Loss of one’s identity. When someone close to us dies this is also a huge loss.

    Who we really are, spiritually, does not die with death. But knowing that someone is doing all right does not mitigate the aspect of loss, not for me. The relationship with another being is often defined by a familial role. When that life is over, so is that role. And when the person has been a key part of our lives, and leaves — this is irreplacable. That our current society chooses to insist that one lives only once makes it taboo to “recognize” someone when they come back. So death means the end of a relationship.

    I wrote this for my mother-in-law when she died.

  46. Kalen
    September 7th, 2010 @ 12:36 am

    I am scared. I am so very frightened. I don’t know if I will ever be at peace with the idea. I hope that somehow, somewhere I will be able to find my loved ones who have passed on. All I can do is hope.

  47. Karen
    September 7th, 2010 @ 3:28 am

    The last gift that my mother gave me was the tranquility and openness with which she faced death at age 90. She brought me into the world and allowed me to share her passage from this world. That memory is a great source of strength for me, just a powerful as the sadness of losing her.

  48. Terry Mc Intyre
    September 7th, 2010 @ 6:20 am

    Kalen, I feel the same as you. As hard as I try to accept death and the thought of it, I am terrified. Of losing my loved ones, of my own death, even the eventual loss of my many animals. The few times that someone close to me has passed, I’ve managed to get through it, though at the time I’m sure I never will. How I wish I could feel at peace with death.

  49. Brandi
    September 7th, 2010 @ 6:57 am

    I do not fear death. I fear how it might happen (ie, I do not wish to burn to death) but I do not fear death itself. I have no illusions of an afterlife. Personally I feel belief in an afterlife is a way of comforting yourself about the unknown. I could write paragraphs and pages, but I will keep it simple…enjoy now, enjoy the things you love and the people you love, enjoy LIFE. You only get one chance.

  50. Jenn
    September 7th, 2010 @ 6:59 am

    Hi Shreve,
    Death has been a common wonder and thought lately for me. Although I am 25, many of my relatives are aging and coming closer and closer to the transition of dying.
    I have come to peace that my day will come. Expected or not, I will leave behind my daughter and loved ones.
    I am deathly afraid of what death will feel like and whether or not there will be after life. I hope that there will be, but then I wonder if I would be able to chose what I will be in my after life or have someone chose for me.
    If there is no after life I then wonder if I will ever be able to come back or not and not being able to is what scares me.
    I wish there would be a way to actually have a definte answer but that is impossible.
    I thank you for your insight on death and this very personal issue.

    Ontario, Canada

  51. Maddy
    September 7th, 2010 @ 7:30 am

    This has been a wonderful discussion and I am very grateful to Shreve for starting it.
    I think some of the problem in our society is that we do not discuss death. It is taboo. It’s wonderful and helpful to read how you all view the process, and the many reasons why.
    I am more at peace with the idea of death today than I was yesterday when I wrote my initial post.
    Would we ever appreciate life if we knew we would live forever? As I age I have become much more sensitive to the intense beauty when I drive rural roads, and hike in the woods,etc. I always loved it, but now I seem to love it more because I understand in a way I never did before that it is not forever. I can best express it by saying I don’t want to miss a minute of life. I want to “be present” to all of it. I think their might be some logic to the concept of death. If we looked forward to death would we care to live at all??? Perhaps it’s a good thing that we fear it, deny it, want it to pass us by, etc. I have seen this time and again in patients who refuse to die, and against all odds, live and walk out the the hospital. Similar stories of mountaineers who have horrific accidents in the mountains yet they struggle inch by inch to return to a place where help will be forthcoming.
    We all know people who are living but for all intense and purposes have just given up. They are breathing but sadly not living. Death has many faces.
    I love the story of the woman who created her own urn. She reminds me of Tasha Tudor, an artist, illustrator,and much more, who truly lived the “life she had imagined”. She loved being old and shared that she “had no regrets”. She was 92 when she passed in her cabin in rural VT.
    Yes indeed. I am grateful to all of you because I can accept my impermanence a little bit better today than yesterday and hopefully this will be a new trend that will evolve and bring me peace. I to want to “live the life that I have imagined.” (Thoreau) You have all helped to lift my burden by listening and sharing.
    My deepest sympathy to Roxanne who lost her son. Thank you for sharing. Your post brought tears to my eyes. It is a beautiful tribute to him.

  52. D
    September 7th, 2010 @ 8:47 am

    as a shrink who has dealt with the dregs of society. i learned NO ONE is truly afraid of death. not the actual moment. i think we all intrinsically know we are going to end at some point.

    what we are afraid of is being betrayed by our bodies… the pain of having that happen, if we will be alone, WHO will be with us at our most vulnerable… things that may or may not serve us spiritual purpose.

    it actually took the edge off of worry. i have had terrible things happen to me in my beautiful city of chicago and made me very humble. i dont hate and think of it as the most intense learning experience EVER.

  53. dusty pines art
    September 7th, 2010 @ 9:54 am

    thank you shreve for this . . . and to maddie & the others who have so enriched the day, this life. i have been fighting Death since the first time we met when i was 6 months old. every time i leave my safe home, i can get exposed to something that has the potential to literally, immediately kill me (cigarette smoke, perfume, new vinyl tablecloths . . . the list is endless), yet i keep on trying to have a life outside my home, with my partner & sons. despite my having fought off Death five more times since infancy, when i was younger i used to think as anne aitken once said about death, when the bus stops, you get on. but as i get older (i’m 56) i would just as soon that bus not stop for me for a good long while. yet when it does, i will be buried in a plain pine box in the soil that formed me, and give back to the earth what i have so gratefully borrowed.

  54. Cathy
    September 7th, 2010 @ 10:03 am

    My feelings on death depend on how spiritually fit I am. Acceptance and peace with it are much easier when I am “right”. On someone else dying, I believe the most important thing is to let them know they can talk about it or anything else. I’ve been around so many people that were dying and their family and/or friends would not let them talk about it because they couldn’t handle it. That is truly tragic and selfish.

  55. Dogmom
    September 7th, 2010 @ 1:24 pm

    I had a near-death experience when I was 20 (suicide attempt)(I am now 56) and it profoundly changed my life for the better. I am not religious at all, and am somewhat cynical about all organized religions. So even though I thought I wanted to die then, I was given the choice — and it was clear that I had the choice — and I chose life. But I remember having the thought that NOTHING is better than this feeling of being in the Light (really, that’s what it was, being in the presence of THE LIGHT of ALL LIGHTS) I decided that it was better for my soul if I came back and lived. So I feel not at all afraid of death now because there is “life” or at least awareness after this physical life, and it is ever so wonderful and full of love.

  56. Maia
    September 7th, 2010 @ 7:37 pm

    Death is not the end. I am one of those people who have, in my case, almost died, and then come back. I can tell you that there is somewhere else where you, as in your spirit, your essence goes. Death is a part of life. I am quite sure that no baby is excited to be thrust out of the womb and be born and no one is too thrilled at thought of death. Death is just a change. That being said, when someone we love or a beloved pet dies, we grieve for ourselves, for the lack of love, not for the one who is gone.

    When an animal dies, it’s body is used to fuel the earth and it’s spirit goes on. All life is eternal.

    Socrates said it best, when he said,there are three truths necessary for faith.

    1. There is one god, not three hundred.
    2. Every living thing has a soul.
    3. And that soul is immortal.

  57. carmel
    September 7th, 2010 @ 7:53 pm

    I work in a hospital in chicago and have witnessed “death” a few times and more so “code blues”…people are not afraid of death it seems, they are afraid of the pain. When they complain of chronic pain, they welcome death.
    Maddy,and the others, here’s a story from my home town on the west coast of Ireland, along the Atlantic….a lady moved into our town, kinda’ eccentric, with her poodle “fuu fuu”.
    ….she was french and lived there for many years….and the years rolled by and she was getting up there and what did she decide to do….? she threw a party for the whole town ! But this wasn’t any ol’ party…it was her wake and she wanted to be there for it ! She was..and the whole town too…and if you ever heard of “Irish wakes”, well, they go on all night…( that was 30 plus years ago and things have change since )…but i often think of that french lady and fuu fuu … I was a teen at the time and working in a local grocery store. She would shop there and bring fuu fuu and he would pee on the apples on display, and she would always holler ” no no fuu fuu, not on the pommes…..!!!!!!!!!!!

  58. carmel
    September 7th, 2010 @ 8:09 pm

    …and i don’t think we romanticize that wild animals enjoy an iddyllic life of freedom, at least i don’t…if you ever stumble upon a wild animal, you immediately see the fear in its eyes…

  59. Tony
    September 7th, 2010 @ 8:20 pm

    I’m too busy to die right now. Ask me later.

  60. Allison Sattinger
    September 7th, 2010 @ 8:43 pm

    I went through a phase where I was terrified of death, of the ‘nothingness’ that surely lies waiting on the other side, and so I started reading and opening myself to the possibility of something else.
    After what feels like years of research and some incredible experiences firsthand, I feel certain that the death of the human body is not at all the end of a soul’s life: quite the contrary.
    Am I excited about the thought of letting go of this earthly plane and all that I love? No, I am sad at the thought… but I am quite certain that where I came from is even better :)

    If we knew what lay beyond this life was wonderful we’d all be clamoring for the Reaper!

  61. k8
    September 8th, 2010 @ 8:16 am

    Many of the people in my life consider me “morbid” or having not “moved on” after the death of my fiance. Maybe that’s true. But I don’t consider what I’m doing to be wallowing in pain. I’m taking what our life was together and using the pieces of it to explore who I am today. He taught me much. I am only now turning some of the things he said into the wisdom that it was. “Getting over it” is not an option. Soaking it in, is.

  62. Karen
    September 8th, 2010 @ 8:52 am

    I believe in birth, death and rebirth. It is all around us, the dead animal that refreshes the earth, that grows the grass, that feeds the mammal…the dead tree that falls to the forest floor to become home to bugs and fungi. There really is no complete end of life, everything circles around again into new life. And I’ve had experiences with animal friends who have died and they have come back to me, in one form or another. There are so many stories here.

    While I grieve at my losses, I am also comforted by them. New life happens. Birth, death, rebirth.

  63. Hawk
    September 8th, 2010 @ 12:43 pm

    Wrote a poem about it recently.
    My good friend lost her mother, in a very slow and unhappy manner (diabetes).
    Made me think a lot about death, again, and loss. About grieving and moving on.

    I wept for weeks when my grandmother was dying. After she passed, though, I didn’t cry very much at all. It was over. She was no longer suffering and somehow, neither was I. There were things that still needed to be done, life to live. Sunrises to appreciate – all the more important to me because she would not be there to appreciate them with me.

    Memories to build, to hold to me, to comfort me against the black times when the loss of so many things comes to rest heavy on my shoulders.

    We all lose, as we travel down the roads of our lives. Loss of loved ones, loss of innocence, loss of perspective. We have so much to lose…and yet so much to gain and regain, so much to learn.

    For me, being surrounded by nature is a soothing balm on the aches in my heart that just being alive causes. I’m thirty-mumble, and I’ve lived rough and tumble for most of those years. Got a lot of scars to show for it. And a lot of pain and memories – a mixed blessing to be sure.

    The sun, the wind, the rain on the leaves…these are things worth living for. The sound of my son laughing, the cat’s purr under my fingers – these are things worth getting out of bed for. Time was when I had nothing to get up for, nothing to live for, and I thought it would be better to end than to struggle onward.

    I got through that, thankfully. And now I don’t fight life, but I build a little each day. Building myself a shelter of positive thoughts and memories…

    Death is now, for me, the rest at the end of the journey. But I’m in the middle of the trip, and there are no signs yet saying that my time is near. Until then, I make the trip as worth it as I can, and try to leave the roadside a little better as I pass by – sowing the seeds of good ideas and good memories, for when my child passes this way, someday.

  64. Arlene
    September 8th, 2010 @ 2:12 pm

    I don’t believe in souls or rebirth or after lives. I believe this is it, ths is our one shot at living and as such we ought to make the most of it and live it kindly and well. As for death, we all die, I don’t fear it so much for myself, but I would be be bereft if anything happened to my husband or child.

  65. Della
    September 8th, 2010 @ 3:03 pm

    I’ve never feared death, though if I were threatened with it, I would likely fight all the way. Death is the beginning of eternity. To live is Christ, to die is gain.

    I’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts because of chronic pain and the emotional affects of a disease called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) or CRPS. I have sometimes envied those who know they don’t have long to live. As I pray about those suicidal thoughts the plainest answer is always that it is not my place to choose the time.

    Currently, with a little better pain management, I am seeing more hope in life. Death though, is still the beginning and not the end… except of pain and suffering.

  66. Cosmo88
    September 8th, 2010 @ 3:22 pm

    @Elizabeth K.
    Could be wrong, but I think Shreve’s title of “Anniversary” is referring to the death of MC’s daughter. I would have to find it in her book to be certain…
    Again, I could be wrong, so no offense intended if I am! I do not wish to appear insensitive.

  67. carmel
    September 8th, 2010 @ 6:54 pm

    …thought of that too, Elizabeth K … and Hawk,well said.

  68. Lucky
    September 8th, 2010 @ 8:54 pm

    I’m one of thise people that think there is a reason behind everything. I spend so much time thinking about why people come into my life. I can’t seem to let go of anyone, anything, any animal, unless I have a good reason. Unless I know why things were meant to be. Perhaps this is the only way I can cope with any loss. So because I really can’t reach any conclusions, it’s like everyone is still here.
    A dear friend died ten years ago, age 32 of breast cancer. I have a box of her things that were cleaned off her desk at work, the day after she died. I was really angry at the person who boxed it up. I went to her services, never could give that box to her husband. It’s still here. maybe I pretend as long as I don’t look, as long as I don’t really see, she is still here.
    Spending my life searching searching for reasons.
    I guess I believe in hell because if I didn’t I would have to be medicated to deal with the inhumanity and evil man inflicts on man if I didn’t think there were consequences in the end.
    My 5 year old nephew died – he had brain cancer-but the real cancer was his ignorant mother who refused to take him for treatment following his initial surgery. I can’t forgive myself for not having kidnapped him and taken him somewhere safe. If you want to get away with murder, kill a child (or animal, whale – dolphin – its the same to me.) Can anyone tell me what makes the spark of life in a dog different than that spark which makes any man alive? I was raised Catholic, taught only humans possess a soul. I choose not to believe that.

  69. Hawk
    September 8th, 2010 @ 10:26 pm

    Thought I’d share the poem.


    Memory and grief
    Your face upon my mind
    Like the echo of light on my eyes
    My shut and weeping eyes
    The tears just flow
    Can’t stop them
    Any more than I could stop your leaving

    Why must loving hurt?
    Why must there be endings?

    Listen to the wind, gaze into the sky
    Love moves like wind on water
    Memory goes on like sky.

  70. SC
    September 9th, 2010 @ 9:32 am

    I’ve walked with Death as a companion for the last year and a half. First, my beloved Mother died suddenly. Three weeks later, my office manager of 10 years died of cancer. A few months later, my older daughter’s best friend committed suicide. A few months later, my father-in-law passed. I’m ready for death to go somewhere else. With a struggling business in this economy, I’ve thought some really dark stuff in the last year and a half. My wife, children and animals are all that keep me going. At times, I think how lucky those that have passed are to not have to deal with all this that is on my shoulders… I do believe in eternal life. Not sure what “kind” but there is no end in nature, why should there be with our souls? I am a Christian but also understand that God’s word was written so we could understand it. Like speaking to a child in terms they can understand. I’ve always taken comfort in knowing that God will never put more on me than I can handle. Lately, He’s had more faith in me than I have. My limits are being tested. Right now, I have no fear of death and will welcome it when it’s my time.

  71. Robin Nowak
    September 9th, 2010 @ 8:15 pm

    I think it’s different if you are able to philosophize about it than when you deal with it first hand.

    My father is dying. And I am watching it happen with a shredded heart. He is My Cowboy. And My Cowboy isn’t able to wear his boots any more though he still wears his wranglers, snap shirts, and belt with the star belt buckle.

    My faith is solid–I believe our spirit goes on, that nothing ever really dies, and the next journey will be as exciting as this one.

    But my faith and thoughts and intellect don’t help the savage canyon that’s been chiseled into my heart.

    Each day we travel to chemo, or radiation, or whatever specialist he needs to see, my emotions feel it as another drive towards an ending. My intellect is clear about what’s happening and most of the time I keep a clear head and am able to be light, happy, and empathetic.

    But my insides are dark, cavernous, and pain filled. A pain so intense. Loss hurts. Really badly.

    Daddy’s ok with it all. His faith is strong and he finds comfort in believing he will be beside Jesus doing good things.

    That’s what counts. Daddy believes.

  72. Chris
    September 10th, 2010 @ 1:30 am

    Hawk, that is wonderful. “Memory goes on like sky.” Yes. Yes, it does.

  73. Lesley
    September 10th, 2010 @ 7:42 am

    Perhaps thinking that death is the reality eventually for us all will encourage us to laugh a little more at life, play a little more, watch the sunset, and give a little of ourselves even when no one is looking because it makes someone else smile. All we really ever have is this moment.

  74. Barry
    September 10th, 2010 @ 9:31 am

    My Grandfather Vance was a bit out there. He died at age 95 of a massive stroke. He knew it was coming, he had a blood clot in his leg and it had given him problems for a few years. He went to old Doc Williams and asked him about it and Doc told him “It’s old age” my grandfather answered him ” Nonsense, the other leg is just as old.” My grandfather had a long standing friendship with Doc and they always amused each other. in the 60’s my grandfather was ripping a board on his radial arm saw and the saw kicked a splinter through his second to last finger on his right hand, it skewered right through the bone, the doc at the time got as much of the wood out and left the finger dysfunctional, he could not bend it. Along came Doc Williams in the 90’s and said “I can fix that” and so he did. After put the stitches in he put a band-aid on it. My grandfather shouted “Wait, I need a bigger bandage”. Why doc asked? “I am an old man, for sympathy, my friends will bring me pies and cakes!”
    In his last week my grandfather was living in a small apartment and his leg suddenly felt better, he knew it was the end, the clot had broken loose. The next day he saw to his own funeral arrangements,a cremation. That night there was a fire in the apartment complex (he called them Pandimoniums)He did not hear the sirens as he was deaf in one ear and “Hard of listening”in the other. The fire crew broke down the door and got him out in his nightshirt, put a firemens jacket on him and set him on a bench. A News crew saw this old man shivering on the park bench in winter and thought they saw a human interest story in it. they asked him about how he felt? his reply was ” I just made arrangements for my own cremation, I figured this was just a dry run” In 2 days the stroke got him, he died in the elevator between the 3rd and 1st floor.

  75. Gitta
    September 10th, 2010 @ 10:23 am

    Here’s what I wonder about: in our culture, we tend to regard “Death” as The Grim Reaper, some kind of evil creature that comes to snatch us away from life – when if fact death, like birth, is a process? We don’t have a wonderful “Birth” creature that comes to bestow life, but we have a horrible “Death” creature that comes to take it away. That’s bizarre. Transitions ARE scary, especially the ones we appear not to have any control over. Giving birth was scary as hell, but right in the middle of it, something else took over. Something much more than my normal everyday “me”, something ancient and primordial and instinctive, of which I was a part. And even while I was screaming with pain, there was that part of me that’s connected to this ancient instinctive place (?) that was perfectly calm and knew that everything was as it’s supposed to be. That’s how I expect dying to be – like giving birth…

  76. Keitha
    September 10th, 2010 @ 12:27 pm

    The Bahai Writings say “I have made death a messenger of joy to you, wherefore dost thou grieve?”

    It’s a transition to another plane of existence.
    Energy doesn’t cease to be, it changes.

    It’s a loss for us here, but happiness for the soul that has gone on. We can pray for them as they pray for us.

    It’s been interesting to read the comments. There are a lot of writings on death in the Bahai Faith that are very interesting to research.

  77. Melanie
    September 11th, 2010 @ 1:19 am

    In the episode “My Room” of Dead Like Me, a reaper meets a woman who has lost a daughter. He, a dead man, shares with her some of his insight into the subject.
    He talks about embracing those that had lived lives, and a culture that celebrates it instead of hurrying to move on. I found it very inspiring.
    It is much more moving hearing and seeing Mandy Patinkin tell it. If you are interested the episode is on Hulu (season 1, episode 6) and it is at 20 minutes into the episode.

  78. Louisa Bolinger
    September 11th, 2010 @ 9:24 am

    When I was a kid, I remember my Daddy always used to say, when he would accidently run over an animal in our car, that it would provide food for something else to live. That would always soften the wound to my heart and enable the circle of life to continue. Bless you Daddy for your wisdom.

  79. Deborah
    September 12th, 2010 @ 3:54 pm

    I agree with you 110% Shreve. When I think about my own death, I remember an answer that a father gave his child, when the child asked if the dad was afraid to die. After much thought the dad said, “No, because I was not afraid before I was born.” I thought that was a brilliant answer and it gives me comfort when I think about my departure into whatever lies beyond… if anything!
    On another note, I like the concept that the Tibetans have – A Sky Burial: The body is laid out in the open on the rocky terrain and meticulously skinned and dissected. The bones are crushed and mixed with tsampa — a mixture of Yak butter and flour. Prayers are chanted, by the burial squad, as time for the “feast” nears. Vultures, hawks and ravens sweep down upon bloody remains, and with great zest rip into the human flesh. As the bones are polished by the satisfied birds, the remains are gathered and burnt in a ceremonial fire. With this act another Tibetan sky funeral ends, “uniting the spirit of the dead with the universe.” I copied this from the following website:

  80. thea
    September 13th, 2010 @ 10:26 pm

    I read your post and remember one photo taken in Tibet. After someone died, his/her family leave the body at a field then wild animals come to eat it. They say “We eat many animals when we are alive. So we return it after we die.” It shocked me at first but made sense to me. hope i didnt scare anyone!><

  81. Lisa
    September 14th, 2010 @ 6:48 pm

    You are all amazing and wonderful and brilliant and insightful and kind, and I hope you know that. You have given me many different perspectives on an event that I sometimes fear, but hope ultimately to welcome. And I think I will, because God has been gracious through all the seasons of my life and has never abandoned me yet, so I figure He won’t then. Someday I will go. As Rich Mullins said, “It will matter if you haven’t LIVED.” So may I live every day to the fullest. And I hope you all do, too, and you don’t beat yourself up about any of it, because it all has its place in your life and made you who you are, and you are pretty amazing! Love and peace to you!

  82. carmel
    September 16th, 2010 @ 8:24 pm

    Lisa, you are amazing! …thanks for sharing your thoughts with us…one thing I truly believe…there is a road set out before us and we follow that road.

  83. Sara Tonin
    September 17th, 2010 @ 7:56 am

    Acceptance is absolutely key with Everything…

    I want to thank you first, Shreve, for allowing us this forum, and to All who’ve commented on this strangely mysterious yet familiar and constant and unifying experience…

    There is no One Direction for this topic to take – it’s so wonderful to read all the differing ideas on death, all the different experiences, the many facets of It – I find it fascinating, and serendipitous that I found this site just last week (which was a little rough for me…)

    I watched my beloved Aunt struggle through her ninety-second year, and felt more relief at her passing last week than sadness – I feel I “lost” her last year – I had many long months to get used to the idea of her being “gone”…

    I had to put my sweet dog down the next day due to recently discovered cancer (I put her down the same day I found out) and felt (feel?) like I had the wind knocked out of me… After receiving the bad news, I went outside to the parking lot and yelled (and screamed and cried) at the universe – 3 doctors (who went through the same thing with me 2 years ago with my OTHER beloved pup) came outside with tears in their eyes as well.

    A huge rush of anger, tears, release… now I am packing up dog toys and bowls, and helping my cousins tend to Aunt Zola’s house and making arrangements for her memorial.

    I am SO grateful that neither are suffering – I believe we are more “humane” with our “pets”.

    I keep thinking that maybe It will “hit” me, but I can honestly say I feel “ok” with All of This…

    I feel for my mother, who at 77 has many fears surrounding death. She has lost her entire immediate family, her husband, all of his siblings, cousins, family friends – quite a few people, actually… I feel she spends a lot of time thinking about (giving energy to?) Death, and by doing so she gives it (too much) power, a negative connotation, and lets it shadow her life, which saddens me more than the loss of my dog/my Aunt…

    Also: I love the idea of both raising your food and/or hunting for your sustenance; being involved with and giving thanks to the animal and it’s life force instead of picking up a refrigerated slab of meat wrapped prettily in plastic at the Food Mart. Alas, I live in a paved paradise – for now.

    Thank you, All for participating, (my heart feels lighter!) but especially:

    Maddy: I would love to take a walk with you. Barry: I love your gene pool.
    Sue and Hawk: Thank you for your lovely truths
    Shreve: I want to hang out and read a book on your cowch too!

    Love and Light to All…

  84. Alexia
    September 27th, 2010 @ 2:10 pm

    I’m a little late on this, but it reminded me of a quote from a book. After reading it, I decided it was more about life than it was about death – but I’ll post it anyway.

    “You wear your life like a garment from the mission bundle sale ever after — lightly because you realize you never paid nothing for it, cherishing because you know you won’t ever come by such a bargain again. Also you have the feeling someone wore it before you and someone will after. I can’t explain that, not yet, but I’m putting my mind to it.” – louise erdrich, love medicine

  85. Patty Burgess
    October 5th, 2010 @ 2:01 pm

    Sorry, this comment may not be timely– but I just saw this thread….

    I work in the hospice industry, and though many people ask, “how can you do that”, or, “I could never do that”, I share that I do it by choice. I am a Community Educator and a Trainer to teach people how to be with the dying. Once understood, being with the dying is perhaps one of the most beautiful ways to spend one’s time, and highly enlightening on a regular basis.

    For most folks whose time happens to be waning, and are essentially “connected”, there is no more BS at the end of life, they are real and authentic. Many of course are wavering back and forth through all of the “stages” (denial, anger, depression, bargaining, acceptance), but it is the acceptance stage that is the most telling.

    For these folks and their families, when I am just talking or teaching– I ask them to switch two letters in the same series of letters to come up with something very different, honored, beautiful, rare and cherished…. That is…

    [Switch] Scared—to—-Sacred


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