“For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.” Khalil Gibran
existentialism, reality, and a conversation
by sarah barrett lepore
Last night was the first Death Café held in Chakra Strength. About 15 of us were together, all with different reasons and all with open minded patience to step into the realm where our culture left behind.
Present were twenty somethings who had never experienced the physical or emotional loss of anyone, to the grandparents who have endured many losses, of parents and children, and we all created a bridge for one another. This bridge reached across to explore a space where there is no expert, there is no professor or counselor teaching everyone step by step instructions. None of us knew for certain how to handle our imminent deaths, or how to handle the pending death of those we love, or past deaths we’ve endured. Tender vulnerability filled the air.
There is no instruction manual, there is no judgement, there is no grade on what we do when the end arrives whether it is ours or someone we love. It is, The Great Unknown.
We talked about hospice deaths compared to hospital deaths, morphine and medical directives, gun shot to the head vs walking out into the wilderness to die alone…then what happens after we die – do we get wings, do we go “lights out” or do we reincarnate? Is the soul of our loved one who passed still hanging out with us or are they just a memory?
What about religion makes it easier or harder to accept our deaths? When you are faced with a death, does religion help? Perhaps it doesn’t help at all and causes you keep questioning…
Is our pending death really about enjoying life more? How can we enjoy life knowing it’s going to end? Yet how can we NOT enjoy life with the knowledge that it’s going to end?
What about The Matrix? Perhaps we are all computer animations – that was an interesting take.
We asked a question that went around the room, How do you want to die?
What about your funeral? What if your family disagrees with what you want for your funeral because you differ in religious affiliation?
What if we never talk to our families about it, or if our aging parents won’t talk about the inevitable?
Personal note: Death is a topic I’ve had career experience with as a hospice counselor and a grief and loss therapist, and then as someone who dealt with cases of extreme trauma, supporting family members of deceased in a hospital setting. I hold space and offer comfort to those in pain, yet when my friends or family have passed away, when it’s my own grief, I tend to hide. Letting go of someone you love is the most difficult practice for a heart to endure. I do the letting go phase in private, and sometimes not attending a funeral has been a way I handle those losses. Somewhere along the line I’ve learned that it’s safer to bawl my eyes out alone rather than in the company of others. I also decided along the way that I don’t save anything for special occasions because BEING ALIVE IS THE SPECIAL OCCASION.
The Death Café is a safe space to share your take on death, from any of the several vantage points. It is said that the more we fully experience endings, the more the endings we experience will be with peace. We are reminded to offer forgiveness, to tell those you love that you love them, and to go after what you truly want in life, because this is all temporary and we need to at least feel joy more often than not.
This event brought by Joslyn Lawrence of The Die Well Collective offered a room full of wonder and heart. We hope you join us for the next one!
Contact Sarah at 805-628-2686 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more info or to host your own event.