Anger Touches Death


My nephew, Drew, committed suicide on December 15.

The pastor at his memorial (which happened yesterday) said this: “People who commit suicide think that they are putting an end to their pain. This is not true. They are simply passing that pain onto everyone they leave behind.”

Bingo.

Drew’s suicide touches everyone differently, and we all cycle through the typical stages of grief.

For me, there’s been a lot of anger, self-loathing, self-disgust and discontent. A clinician would, without doubt, say that the stage of depression has been reached. I, on the other hand, do not subscribe to the pathologization of the natural descent cycle — but I do see that a descent has occurred and I’m endeavoring to embrace it for all it’s worth.

The Buddha would say that this mess of reactivity is due to excessive identification with the body, and he would be correct.

I am still in the body, and unless I consciously attain “Right View,” I definitely identify my body as “me.”

The body is not only physical, but it is mental and emotional as well.

The emotions are what assail me now.

So, I turn to a pair of companions who bring comfort through thick and thin: astrology and the Bible.

What does astrology say?

Astrology says that transiting Mars, the Warrior, planet of anger and physical vitality, has been moving directly over Pluto, the Dark Mother, planet of death and transformation, in my natal chart.

Mars and Pluto happen to be ruling planets in my chart. This means that, whenever they are “lit up” by mutual connection, I am thrust into processes that go directly to the “core issues” in my life.

Astrology says that Mars conjoining Pluto guarantees at least a month’s worth of physical, mental and (especially) emotional INTENSITY — which, of course, exceeds the boundaries of rationality, descending my emotions into the deepest, darkest recesses of existence.

My experience of what Astrology says includes the above-mentioned anger, self-loathing, self-disgust and discontent. I’m sure there are other things going on in my chart (i.e., Jupiter squaring Nodes and Saturn in the 7th, Uranus opposing Moon, and Pluto continuing to square Moon) that contribute to the seeming bottomlessness of the descent I’m in… but, for whatever reason, I can’t seem to find the lower floor, and I’m getting a little desperate.

What does the Bible say?

Here’s where I was led:

Eph 4:29-32 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

So… the remedy for my corrupt communication, my grieving of the Spirit of God, my bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking and malice… is to forgive those who are on the receiving end of my projections, and to show tenderhearted kindness toward them — no matter how difficult it may be for me to get there from here.

Whew! Tall order!

And, yet… the forgiveness piece is something that’s worked wonders in my past… because, only through forgiving others am I able to receive forgiveness for my own loathsomeness.

Yes, I am inundated by explosive emotion right now.

I feel terrible about my reactivity and my frantic corruption of communication. I feel awful about ALL my shortcomings, the totality of which seems so obvious and exposed.

In this place, I can’t seem to get over the shortcomings I see in others — I want to blame them for the pain and suffering within me.

So… I forgive everyone who has ever “wronged” me — just as I forgive Drew for killing himself.

And… I pray that my own wrong-doing toward others is forgiven in kind.

* * *

Somewhere in all this grieving, there is a bottom floor.

May my feet touch down in that place as soon as possible.

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The Good News and the Bad News

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Been gone for a long time, as you may already have figured out.

For a while, I just didn’t feel like blogging. No inspiration, nothing new to say, an absence of curiosity.

Then, about three weeks ago, my mother called from California. For seven years she’d been battling cancer, beating the odds several times over, including a rare instance of spontaneous remission.

She said she had good news and bad news.

The good news was that she’d had successful surgery to correct a cataract, and she was able to see well for the first time in many years.

The bad news: she’d seen her oncologist the previous day, and instead of giving her the usual pep talk, he wept as he told her she had two months to live, at the most.

My wife and I spent a few days organizing, calling family, washing clothes, packing, making motel reservations, having the car checked. One week after Mom called, we hit the road.

Last Friday we pulled off the highway in Mojave, California, and gave my sister a call.

In tears, she said, “We lost her.”

Mom had let go of her physical body some time between Thursday night and Friday morning, while we were either in Utah or Nevada. For a long time she’d refused pain medication, wanting to remain coherent for one last visit with her son… but the pain had increased to the point where she was in constant suffering, and her husband, bless his heart, finally talked her into taking morphine. On Thursday the 24th of January, he started administering the drug every two hours, giving her the last shot at about 11:30 p.m. When he found her Friday morning, she had not moved from the position she’d been in the previous night — leading my stepfather to believe that she may have been gone when he administered that last dose.

I’m very sad that I was not able to visit with my mother one last time, but I knew that she was not interested in lingering once her doctors had given up. I also am grateful that she was spared additional pain and suffering simply to chat with me. We’d already said what needed to be said, and had made great strides the past few years in healing old emotional wounds, such that I am very much content with our relationship before she died.

We held a memorial service this past Friday, one week after she passed. Her little Disciples of Christ church was filled past capacity, with many of her friends and family traveling long distances to say goodbye. That’s when I let go of my tears, which had to happen at some point. Funerals are frequently bittersweet occasions, and this one was no different. Bitter because we’re having to let go of a loved one. Sweet because we all come together in expressions of love and longing, bowing to an experience that escapes no one.

If you’re reading this, Mom… I really do feel your presence now and forever.

Thanks for bringing me into this world, and for helping me stay alive all this time.

Thanks also for showing me the meaning of Faith.

As tough and resilient as you always were, your soft heart always beamed out, there for anyone with eyes to see.

The Forbidden Topic

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Kahlil Gibran….

Here’s Kahlil Gibran’s take:

On Death

You would know the secret of death.
But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.

In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;
And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.
Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king?
Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

Comforting, no?

Death is something we as humans typically fear, but the wise ones know that there is no death at the ultimate level. Life never dies. What we fear is the end of “this” version of life, assuming that we are entities separate from That which created us.

We are always in Communion, from life into death… which is another life.