Sometime quite a while ago but maybe in the past decade, I realized I’d stopped grieving when friends die. What I feel instead each time this happens, I realized, is celebration—a feeling of celebrative joy on behalf of my departed friend-relative-beloved person—and deep gratitude that I’ve been able to share some of life’s road with that one who has now departed to a place where I may not yet go.
Sometimes, briefly, I still yet shed a tear over the certainty that I can no longer just call up or write to that departed person on any small whimsy, that the time when we could so easily share each other’s lives and friendship has happened, has concluded, is now past and gone, no longer possible until my own turn comes—at least not in the measured terms of Earth-time.
But the celebrative feeling, always now, predominates over the sad kind. I am buoyed by the certainty that I will in good time rejoin with that departed person, that what we have shared will resume in a vastly broader more desirable context—in a Spirit/God Otherwhere—when my graduation arrives.
For that is exactly how I regard mortal death nowadays. It is graduation. That person whose departure I celebrate has earned his or her wings, so to speak, just like Clarence. That one I can no longer see or speak with has lived the good life, fought the good fight as they so metaphorically say, and has now passed onward and upward to that better place from whence we both mutually chose to adventure here in the first place, and share some portion of our mortal lives together.
I am so reminded of that thoughtful Indonesian man who said, of the moment when he saw the great Indian Ocean tidal wave coming straight at him: “I thought to myself, I must keep my eyes wide open, for I am having a rich experience.”
I am reminded too of the many people who still fear death—some so very fearfully that they let the fear inhibit their freedom to enjoy and fully engage with this mortal life’s rich fullness. Surely, I surmise, those who harbor that needless fear have not encountered an opportunity to learn the great wonderful lesson so spontaneously delivered to us via people who have near-death experiences and survive to tell us about what happened, about that greater reality they personally experienced. It makes me want to run out and tell them, all of them—but they are so many, who have not heard the reports of the near-death experiencers, and sadly may never. And soap boxes on street corners is not my way.
Maybe, I hope, they will encounter, somehow, this rich body of information about how life continues full-blown and beautiful after death of the mortal body, about how we are immortal spirits who live forever, how this earth-place is a learning ground whereat we choose to live a mortal lifetime and encounter certain experiences we need to face in order to advance our spiritual growth, as God wants us to. So logical, so believable. Grounds for solid conclusions based on tons of evidence as least as good as that supporting widespread belief in quantum dynamics we also cannot see.
So many people, turned off by churches and whole religions and discrepant self-serving baggage; mis-led by science and egotistical certainty of nothingness beyond arrogant claims to know what’s real and what’s not; and outraged, at God, that God would let such awful wars and poverty go on and on—failing in their myopia to see that eliminating wars and poverty is their responsibility, not God’s.
Such rich lessons to be learned from the teachings of near-death experiences, such rich guidance to be gleaned from the reported mandates which all sound so very much like, and in fact boil down to, the golden rule. All that and vastly more, the rich teachings and simple mandates gifted to us in the reportings of people who nearly died but survived and returned to tell us what they experienced. Hallucination, science calls it; heresy, religion calls it. What do they know?
After reading thousands of near-death experiencer reports and studying the matter in great depth for over forty years, I don’t—do not—concern myself with getting “saved” from some mythical hell and damnation of a fearfully judgmental and jealous Abrahamic God because of some contrived “original sin” allegedly committed with a talking snake and a knowledgeable fruit by my mythical ancestor Eve a jillion times removed and that not even counting evolution.
I simply understand—with direct and utter simplicity—that life is eternal, that the body’s death is a graduation, that God is real and wants us all to learn that love is everything, which includes a Godly mandate that our purpose is to learn to love each other, to grow in spirit, and to deliver up that growth when at last, after living a good life as fully as we can manage, we return Home.
No, I don’t see a friend’s death as something to grieve. I rejoice in gladness. I celebrate a life lived.