From the time of our birth, each of us is moving forward, with each passing moment, towards our death. It's a subtle movement, much like that of an hour hand, pulling each cell, every thought, all of our energy, in one direction. Even though we are not consumed with it, the reality remains in perpetual motion.
Some of the aspects of death are unpleasant to think about, indeed, to deal with. Being confronted with the end of this known reality forces us to face certain inevitabilities ... that we most certainly will lose some of those we care deeply for ... that even we will not live forever ... that even with all of our beliefs, our future destination and experiences are uncertain. A harsh reality.
Our human inclination is to survive, and hopefully to thrive. Much of our life's energy is spent in forward propulsion. Nearly everything in our world supports upward mobility - a welcome distraction from the finality of our journey. And so, for many, it is easier to pretend that it will not happen, to delude ourselves into believing that THAT DAY is far, far, far off in the unforeseeable, mystical, unknown future.
As a doula and caregiver, I've come to understand our human instinct to fear, deny, flee, disconnect, control, or be paralyzed by the news of grave illness or death. The day after having a heart attack, my own father told me, "I never really believed that I would die". At the time I thought it was arrogance. I mean how could anyone actually believe that they would somehow escape mortality? Decades later, just after his transition, I realized that it wasn't arrogance at all. Until the heart attack, Dad had been doing what most of us do, living in happy denial.
And why not? It's so much easier to just live as if tomorrow is certain. Even if it's not. Insulation allows us to be motivated to get up and tackle the world each new day. And so we often perceive death, and thoughts or talk of it, as negative ... a dark cloud, morbid, foreboding, depressing, something to be avoided completely.
But life itself is transition. Each second we are alive, we are transitioning - from one breath or moment or experience or feeling or reality, to the next. And if we are fortunate, life teaches that even death can be extremely meaningful and, dare I say, joyful ... as much as, if not even more than, birth.
To transition is to move through or change. It is a process - one that is necessary to embrace new understanding. Humans are creatures of comfort. We like things to be steady and smooth and shiny and bright and calm and easy. But life is about growth ... on every level imaginable. What is stagnant does not grow. It can only sit where it is, and in a sense, die right there. Yet the world, with all of its elements and personalities and phenomena, constantly shifts through various phases of being. And so, we must align ourselves with change or be left behind, spiritually, technically, and relationally disconnected.
Shifting our focus to how we live today as a preparation for our future, opens the door to embracing life's many transitions with less anxiety. When we make each day count, the end of the physical life becomes less about loss, regret, or fear and more about embarking on the next phase of being. In this mind and heart space we are able to be fully present for the transition of others. In the process our own souls shift. And that is the most powerful blessing of all.
Aqiylah Collins is an energy worker, holistic practitioner and doula who has been the primary caregiver for her terminally-ill parents and stepmother. The physical, emotional and spiritual lessons, practices and skills amassed from these (and other) life experiences inform her private practice at her holistic wellness center, Qi To Wellness.