How can I assist someone prepare for death (see Monday’s post) while being afraid myself? By being honest with them, not pretending to know, I’d say, and by offering to accompany them wholeheartedly on the path. Zen teachings advise us to die before you die. That is, to practice dying with each conscious moment so that when the moment of physical death comes you’re prepared. Just one breath at a time, then one more breath, then no breath.
But how do I go about this, I once asked a Zen teacher. He seemed perplexed as if the question and its answer were obvious. “Practice!” he told me, “learn to let go, to cease clinging.”
Taking myself for a walk last night, I considered ways in which I might let go. What’s most precious in your life, I asked. What do you cling to most fervently? Which possible loss scares you the most? As I began ticking off possessions, projects, and relationships, something came crashing down like a bucket of cold water: What if you could no longer work at hospice? Pow@!* I stopped to grab hold of a tree, afraid I’d faint.
A few posts ago I mentioned talking with others about what scared us the most. And, to my surprise then, what I feared most was to not live long enough to do hospice work; that it had taken all my life to get to this point; that I could not imagine living without this work.
Resuming my walk, a cloud of fear descends as I contemplate life without the work that has giving me such meaning. Listening to the voice of fear and the weight of my steps, a sense of loss gradually morphs into emptiness: the point of “not knowing.” Aaaahhhh! The taste of freedom.