November is a month of many different moments and movements. I found myself pondering death and recalled the often quoted: ‘A seed must die if a plant is to grow’. I thought of each of us who are ‘left behind’ and of all the pain that their death holds for us. Our lives are always changed by death because we touch each other’s life.
When anyone talks with me about their own death, they usually say that they are not so much afraid of death itself, but rather the dying process. We don’t want to suffer physically, we don’t want to have our minds fade, our bodily functions betray us, or we don’t want to become dependent upon our children or loved ones. These fears terrify us when we think about our personal death.
A woman recently said ‘we have such an unrealistic expectation of life. We think we are going to live forever and not suffer anything.’ She then went on to say ‘death is a part of life and dying is the name of the process of that transformation.’ As I reflected on her statement, I remarked that paradoxically, dying is integral to our growth! Who would have thought that was true!
Aren’t all our ‘little deaths’ a witness to a limited vision of ourselves and of life? If we allow life to teach us, no matter what we undergo, we emerge wiser, more resilient, more compassionate, and more flexible. (The key here is allowing ourselves to be taught, to be transformed). There is so much more to the potential within ourselves and within life itself than our limited view acknowledges or anticipates. Truly at the core of who we are lies the Image of God always transforming our limitations into expansions. A seed must die, must be changed to live more fully.
That seems to be true for all creation – what we see as diminishment, destruction, suffering are breakthroughs to a qualitatively new and different life.
As we celebrate Dia de los Muertos this November 1st, we celebrate all the people who have passed through this life into the fullness of Life. As we pause this upcoming Thanksgiving Day and give thanks for all the gifts of life, may we experience God within all of life bearing fruit within each of us and in all of creation.
We give Thanks!