Death teaches life

bobbie - boulder, Utah
Entered on June 8, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65
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I was inspired to write this essay by another essay I heard on This I Believe. It was about our vulnerability being our strength, from a man who works with the disabled. It was a Sunday morning, and I was moved to tears.

I had just completed a program at a large hospital in Salt Lake City, training as an interfaith chaplain. My particular faith group is Buddhist, but our group contained mostly Christian chaplains.We attend every death in the hospital, and also the dying and depressed. What we found, over and over, was that people truly are at their best when things are at the worst. When people are in crisis, especially facing death, they open in a way never before possible for many. They ask deep questions, show deep fear, ask for help, and share on a profound heart level. Down come the facades, the masks, the games, the parts we play. Opportunities for authentic connection, deep listening, and profound honesty open. Sometimes, long time guilt and shame are healed. Families can connect in new ways and get past old wounds. What matters most in life is elevated. What is elevated is love, how much did we love and how well did we love. In Buddhist terms, did we figure out that all things are impermanent, all things are interconnected, and we only find happiness through letting go of the separate self. There is a Zen saying: “To learn about life, spend time around death.” That is certainly true. Through the vulnerability we face in death, we can learn how to live an open, loving life.