A very dear friend of mine passed away last week after battling a deadly disease for over two decades. The funeral confirmed what everyone already knew, the deceased was a terrific person with a great family. He was an entrepreneur and an icon in his industry. For years he advised many of the greatest rock talents enabling them to achieve gigantic financial success.
Here’s a news flash. Every one of us must face our mortality at some point. The process can be extremely disruptive, or it can be relatively peaceful depending upon circumstances during the final hours and how well the interested parties are prepared. The luckiest among us will fall asleep and die quietly. But death is never really easy for the survivors.
Funerals, eulogies and memorials celebrate the lives of those who have departed. Although some given specific instructions about their services before they die, dead people don’t really care about these postmortem gatherings. They won’t know how many people attended, or whether nice things were said.
Organized events after one dies are for the survivors. The grieving family is surrounded by caring relatives, friends and acquaintances that offer their condolences and promise to help in any way they can. Showering sympathy on the survivors makes them feel loved.
Many funeral speeches laud the dearly departed. In almost every case achievements and contributions to society are exaggerated just a bit (not in the case of my friend, however). Often times reminiscing elicits tears from the attendees. And humor is part of some eulogies. Funny moments are recalled and appreciated by the audience because they ease the tension that invariably accompanies death.
I’ve been thinking about what attendees at funerals muse about while the deceased person’s life is being scrutinized? Are they feeling empathy for the surviving spouse and the children? Do they worry about the loved ones being able to recover from their loss?
Or, are they thanking God that they were not being subjected to the pain affiliated with the passing of a relative or friend? Are they saying to themselves, “I really loved that guy and I’m so sorry that he died? But, I hope I never have a stroke or contract a horrible disease that debilitates me.” These feelings are commonplace and perfectly normal.
Humans have been dying since the beginning of time, an obvious factoid. In 75-100 years most of the people on earth at this moment will be gone. If you are 60 years old only 18% of your life remains if you live until you’re 85.
When people die it’s because something killed them. They had cancer, suffered a heart attack, were in a car accident, etc. When they’re elderly and die from no obvious ailment, it’s called dying of old age, a catchall phrase. All of us hope that our passing is relatively peaceful and not an emotional or financial tsunami that overwhelms our families.
My friend was a very good friend, a mentor, a mensch, a great person, a fabulous family man, someone that cared about education and a kind person. I’ve been grieving deeply, but it’s time to move on.
One thought on “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”
My husband died consciously in 1979. He was completely dead, verified by a nurse, but then he came back, with a conscious recollection of what happened after he died. I met him shortly after he returned from India where this happened. I have heard his story many times over the years when he has shared it, often with people facing death, and they found it of comfort.
This includes me. I’ve been dying for 22 years, since I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. My case was aggressive, with great suffering from a multitude of symptoms. Now in a wheelchair, fighting hard to maintain my independence. Death is a constant possibility from the other conditions that pile up with chronic disability, like deep vein thrombosis which I barely survived a few years ago, or frequent infections that attack my weakened body.
I use Doug’s story as a guided meditation, a rehearsal of sorts, watching my breath, observing what arises. It’s given me courage to let go of the fear of death. The door he went through staid open a crack; we’ve had mystical experiences, satoris, encounters with non-physical beings, and those who leave their body. You can’t make these things happen, but through meditation you stay available to it, relaxed and fearless. This has been such an adventure while I’m alive, and now I am excited to see what unfolds after life.
He has now shared his story, and hopes it will assist anyone who wonders about death.