“to live in this world
you must be able
to do three things
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go”
~ Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems, Vol. 1
Yes, it's true. I can talk about death. I can even share all my secrets to finding joy, gratitude and gorgeous freedom, but I will always be afraid of death. Fear is not a condition we cure or fix, neither is death for that matter. It is something we learn to take in and squeeze out with every exhale. It is the price we pay to live. "Your own life depends on it."
We can live or we can be alive. It's the same as knowing all the truths we know about this world. Poverty, abuse, hate, pain, disease, loss and grief. We co-exist with these heartbreaks because they are a part of our human existence, the shadows we cast from all our foibles, fallacies, and mistakes. We recover, find ways to make a difference, ways to contribute, ways to make better, ways to give back, or not. But, this is how we manage. This is how we find balance. We balance by remembering to laugh, eat cake now and then, and smile at a passerby. We don't live in big moments, we live in the small ones. Our lives depend on it.
Being immersed in "apprenticeship" (as Francis Weller so beautifully puts) with death, dying and grief for over a year now, I have learned that the co-existence of life and death, love and loss, like any relationship, is a daily, conscious acceptance. I've been asked on several occasions, how is it I can feel and share so much joy when I place myself so close to death, sit with people who are dying, and companion others in their grief. Simply put, the closer you lean in to death, the bigger you want to live your life. Even further, the sooner we lean into our own relationship with death, the sooner we can truly begin to live our lives. Your own life might depend on talking about death.
We had our second Boulder Courageous Conversation meetup on August 3rd and I can't express enough how enlightening, educational, thoughtful, and helpful these conversations have been. I hope you can join us for the next one, Sept.12th, here in Boulder, 7-9pm. Click the link above to RSVP.