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what the dying teach us

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incenseStill reeling from yesterday’s bedside visit (and unaware of the patient’s current condition), I seek to situate my experience in a broader context of living and dying. Rodney Smith, who trained as a monk in Thailand and has been a hospice worker and meditation teacher for many years, writes as follows:

The dying teach us that we cannot find contentment in our possessions. They point to something that lies beyond our need to aquire, to something much less tangible but ultimately more fulfilling. The dying direct us toward relationships as the reason for being alive. Relationship is not just people caring about people, although that certainly is important, but the ability to relate to everything, to be open, to learn and grow through every situation and circumstance (p.78).

Healing the rift between life and death means discovering how each complements the other in a complete union. While this is not an easy task, it is not an impossible one either. And once this healing occurs, everything changes with it. The ego, which initially seizes death as a drama, now uses it as a tool for understanding its own nature. Thereafter, death begins to influence our lives in more subtle ways. It is no longer seen as an enemy but as a friend that will guide us towards greater wisdom (p.87).

source: Smith, R. (1998). Lessons from the dying. Boston: Wisdom Publications.


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