The God of Transitions
Many people I know have experienced the death of someone near to them in recent months. They may have lost one or more relatives or friends. At the same time, some of that same group and still others are expecting someone to die who is in ill health. Some of the people I know are among the very few who are aware of their own state of health being near death. They are aware that their times may not be all that long. All of the first two groups are, most naturally, grieving. Those aware that they may not have much longer are enjoying the time they have to live. They are living this life day to day while preparing themselves for the next life.
It’s all a mystery. A quite complex, convoluted mystery.
We think we have something figured out in our lives. Suddenly, everything changes. It’s confusing. We’re caught off our guards. How do we respond? In our uncertainty we search for clues as to how we are supposed to respond.
As children we knew what to do. Our parents or other adults furnished the roadmaps for various situations. As a child I was either unaware of or did not know many of our family’s relations. When a very close relative of my father died whom I didn’t know, I asked him if he was sad. My mother pulled me aside. She told me that of course he was sad because of who that person had been to him.
That gave me some concept of how to behave during the mourning period. Which is great because to my young mind it was just another school day.
The men and women are mourning because we have learned those rites of passage. It is how societies deal with that transition known as death. It is how our souls and our psyches recover from our losses. Those who have died have already moved on. In most cases.
Long before her recent death a friend had asked me about my own death, when it comes. First of all, I don’t plan to die. I’m planning on God to send a chariot of fire with the prophet Elijah as my driver. Elijah can scoop me up and we will disappear into the heavens. As did Elijah in his chariot of fire. After all the work I’ve done for God, the trials God has put me through, I simply have no tolerance for death. And not always that much for God, either.
At any rate, I told my friend that there will be no funeral. I won’t be there to enjoy it, so why bother? And if I were there, it absolutely would not be one of these things Catholics have these days. The music would be in Latin. All of the readings would be the shortest possible. There would be no eulogy. The service itself would be the shortest possible. Anyone know a priest who can do a half hour funeral? Less for an extra fifty bucks?
As a child I was given what was then called Extreme Unction. The sacrament of the sick and dying. Because I was sick. The doctors were trying to figure out if they could keep me alive.
Gradually my transition was back to health.
We’re not so sure about our personal gods in times when life and death are in the balance. When it is time to mourn. When justice has tipped, we think unfairly, against our plans for life.
Do we turn to Thanatos, the god of death, or Janus, the god or beginnings, endings and transitions? Do we turn to another god, another forgotten deity?
I want to know why we should turn to any of those gods.
It is more sensible to me to turn to our inner God. To go inside of ourselves. To go deeply inside of ourselves where the outside world cannot come. Where we cannot be found.
Rather, be silent.
Meditate. Just sit and listen. The voice of our inner God will speak to us. It’s something that will not come in a minute or an hour. It comes when it comes.
It’s okay to stop whipping ourselves over all of the things we didn’t do. What we should have done. What we might have done if only we’d thought of it in time.
In her blog My Psychic Search writer Gail Kushner has written in recent articles about death and suicide. It’s refreshing to be reminded of the wide varieties of thoughts and experiences we have about different forms of transition from this life to the next. The difference in her writing from what I hear from other friends and acquaintances who are not in the spirituality business is how we handle it.
For those of us in the God business birth and death are similar to the beginnings and endings of anything else. They are the same side of the coin. Different names.
Looking at all of this in sum, what most sticks in my mind and soul is how we handle this. Not in terms of the deaths of others.
Rather, how am I preparing for the prophet Elijah and the golden chariot of fire?