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  • Writer's pictureAnnelisa MacBean

Postponing Death

It is so easy for me to take tomorrow for granted, to expect another opportunity to watch the sunset, or take a hike on the coast, visit the tide pools, phone an old friend or connect with my beloved. But there is also a deep knowing that being human is a fragile, tenuous state. Such opportunities to be fully in life are fleeting and this human engagement is temporary.

Yet, I am prone to procrastinate, not because I don’t want to see the sun drop below the horizon . . . not because I don’t want to connect with my friends . . . but because if these precious moments are waiting for me tomorrow, I can perpetuate the illusion that a tomorrow awaits. If there is a tomorrow then there will not be death, at least not today . . . and maybe not tomorrow. When I put off living today until tomorrow, I can perpetuate the illusion of a guaranteed tomorrow and, in so doing, repress death awareness for another day. So many things to do tomorrow, and the next day and the next week and the month after that. Operating under the illusion of a “tomorrow” is something many of us share.

At the end of this life – which I feel now is sure to come much sooner than I am ready – it is highly unlikely that I’ll care at all whether I accomplished all the tasks on my to-do lists, saved a dollar, healed all my past wounds, completed my relentless self-improvement project, or completed the mythical spiritual journey with which I am currently obsessed. It is much more likely that there will only be one question . . . one reflection: how well did I love? There are disowned, unknown and lost parts of my psyche and soul moving in and around me, and the cries of these unlived lives reverberate in my joints and organs and tissues. I can feel those aspects of myself I have not tendered or allowed full, mature expression. To attend to the forces and energies which remain incomplete or unlived – to listen to the poetry in their call for acknowledgment . . . to provide sanctuary for the full emergence of the vital and divine forces aching to express through this body . . . this is a radical act of compassion. One day I will no longer be able to look at, touch, or share a simple moment with my loved ones. When I turn to them, they will be gone. One moment will be the last moment I have to encounter the immensity of one more breath, to experience awe in the presence of color or scent, to appreciate a budding orchid, or to merge my consciousness with the vastness of the sea. One moment will be my last chance to see a universe in a drop of rain, to have a moment of communion with a friend, or to weep as the daylight surrenders to darkness.

One moment will be the last moment I have to think a thought, feel an emotion or listen to a piece of music; to be joyful, sorrowful, or peaceful – to be a sensitive, alive, connected human being. What if today is that last day? Or tomorrow? Or later this week? Knowing that death will come, how do you respond to the sacred and brief experience of being in a human life? Are you putting off until tomorrow the loving you could be expressing and experiencing now? I am increasingly convinced that my “life's purpose” has nothing to do with my profession or what new thing I am able to manifest or attract for my comfort, identity or social standing. My life’s purpose doesn’t even seem to have much to do with the journey of awakening or how close I get to nirvana. For me the purpose of my life is becoming increasingly clearly about living fully, finally, to touch each here and now moment with my presence, with the gift of my one, divinely guided heart.

With this purpose comes the responsibility to do whatever I can to help others; to hold space as their unlived lives, like mine, seek to find acknowledgment and expression; to accept the ways others are attempting to make sense of a world that has gone a bit crazy, without judgement or shame; to speak kindly into the miracle of the other so that the lost or forgotten aspects of their souls and psyches might recognize the remaining opportunity of this moment . . . and this moment . . . and this one . . . and . . .

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