In the past 6 months, 4 people related to You Are Videos passed away. 3 people that received the videos as gifts in the last few months of their life and 1 client that died before he could deliver the video to his girlfriend.
Being apart of this, and seeing my son dislocate his hip last labor day in a biking accident, has given me pause to think more about life and death. I’m thinking now about what death means and how I might deal with it better. These are conversations that I’ve never had before.
All of my grandparents have passed with the grandmothers being the most resent. Honestly I completely checked out during their illness and passing, making almost no effort to connect with them before they died.
One of the great shames and regrets in my life.
But I don’t think I’m the only one that checks out when a loved one is near death. As my cousin Dr. Tom Pinkson says “we as people have a weak relationship with death. We push it away and then have no ability to relate to it when it inevitably comes.”
I’ve been talking with Tom in the past few months as I became more and more curious about death and how we relate to it. My videos are essentially about gratitude and appreciation and not because things are perfect but because each person is unique and special to their loved ones. I began exploring how we can authentically show gratitude in the face of severe challenges. I could show gratitude that my son wasn’t hurt worse but how could one ever show gratitude and appreciation when something truly awful like death happens? Especially if that that death involves a child?
I sought Tom out because for the past 40+ years he has been exploring how people relate with death and how that impacts their living. He has lived with multiple indigos tribes and sat with children in hospice as they pondered their too short lives. He is currently exploring what it means to aging and living in the years passed 70. His latest book is Fruitful Aging: Finding the Gold in the Golden Years.
I’m just a newbie in the world of thoughts about life and death so I could spend hours discussing what we talked about. But one thing that struck me is what Tom called the “Death Story”. The idea is pretty simple once you distinguish it – “what is the story that we tell ourselves about death and they dying process?”.
Tom pointed out that as a culture we have lost those stories that explain that process in a way that empowers us. We push death away (like I did with my grandmothers) so we lose connection with those that came before us. Losing that connection also disconnects us with what it means to live a truly passionate and present life. I knew I should have visited my grandmothers more and when I didn’t, a little bit of my energy and vigor slipped away.
He asked me what my “Death Story” is. When he saw me squirming for an answer he also added – “And look I know this isn’t easy. None of us talked about this growing up.”
He gave me a simple idea – “Think of life as a pot of almost boiling water. As it gets warmer, a little bubble appears and floats to the top. At some it point pops and returns its energy to the water. You are that bubble. Everything that is your universe is the water. You appear at some point, float to the top, pop at the end and return to the universe.”
This was just lunch at a Whole Foods but that was pretty powerful to me. I just love the simplicity of it. And if I was a god fearing man, I could imagine him or her being the one to put the pot on to boil and turning on the gas.
I thought of how I might use this when a loved one of mines dies (Note – before thinking about this I would have said “if and when a loved one dies” as if it might not happen). I imagine I will be sad, angry, frustrated and confused. But as I work through those things I’ll also be able to think of their bubble and their journey to the top of the pot.
Even something as simple as a bubble story gives me a perspective that I didn’t have before. I’m looking forward to exploring this more with Tom and others. My thought is that the more free we are to discuss something as confronting as death, the more free we are to celebrate and acknowledge ourselves and our loved ones.
What do you think? What is your Death Story?