Never before has the fear of dying been so prominent in my mind. I have contemplated my own death before. I have looked at it with respect. I have had moments when driving down the highway at 100mph that death could be a possibility, but there was more fear of maiming and mutilation, actually a fear of not dying, that ruled those thoughts. I have always taken my death as being a natural part of life and something that would happen waaaaaaay in the future when I was old, grey, and surrounded by loved ones in my big old farm house in Provence. No, the fear of death of my physical body has not influenced my life.
Recently, however, there has been a cold ice rising up my spine, paralyzing me. This coldness has seeped into my central nervous system and risen up to my brain where it is attempting to take over the control board of my mind. This coldness is the fear of death and it has been quietly playing with the switches and buttons of my actions and manipulating the gauges of my judgment. Its intention is to take over as master of my mind, to paint everything in its image– to dominate my perspective like a tyrant influencing a nation.
Sometimes, I get a feeling of being alone in this apartment and my heart stops or I slip and hit my head or I have a stroke and no one is around to know that I have been injured and I would lie here for days with the life seeping out of me, so independent that no one even thinks to check in on me so I fade away, alone. Other times, a wave of fear washes over me and its for that moment when life turns into death– that last gasp and then the return to Light. The first instance is a melodrama unfolding as the story of a single woman with a cat. Tough as nails on the outside, but all soft tissue and liquid on the inside. Woe is she. The second feeling, that wave of fear is a hard hitting flash of a moment that simply occurs in my mind and jolts my body like an electric shock. Both seem very real in the moment they rise. Both have the ability to make me curl into a ball and weep.
The fear of dying is new for me, as I said. Death was not a part of my sphere of influence until recently. In April 2012, my 20 year old cat Penelope died. In December of 2012, my cat Dindi died. In November 2013, my mom Donna died. The cats made me consider mortality, but not my own. They made me understand that life can be here today and gone tomorrow; and that the caregiver has to be present listening all the time when the time comes. My mom made me see death as a real thing for she was the only close soul that I had ever lost. I had lost one of my uncles when I was 13 years old and my grandfather when I was maybe 27. But I was not close with either of these men, although I loved them very much. Mom’s death was different because she was that beloved being who I saw as eternal. I mean, I knew that she would die eventually, but not so soon. Look, even though I was heavily involved with my mom’s breast cancer issue, the thought never crossed my mind that she would die from it. I know that sounds ridiculous, arrogant even, but seriously, I had no idea and it wasn’t even an option in my mind. With all that treatment, all that fancy medicine from that fancy hospital, whoda thunk that the patient could be lost? She was under a doctor’s care every single week, for goodness’ sake. She had just finished her final breast reconstruction, three weeks before she collapsed from the brain metastases. So no, death for my mom was not on my radar.
It might be that because her death was unexpected that the icy finger of fear was able to slip its way into my mental functioning. It’s when our defenses are down that victimization can sneak in. I was at my mom’s side when she died. No, that’s not true. I was at the foot of her bed on an air mattress. It was her final gasp, that outward explosion of SEE YA! that jarred me into consciousness and had me at her side in a matter of seconds. It was the strangeness of seeing her little body become a mere shell, a mere vessel that was once full but now lay empty–void of all functioning, void of all life. It was the jaw that wanted to stay open and would not would NOT stay closed until I discreetly propped it shut with a rolled up towel. Attempting to maintain the semblance of dignity for my mom might have been the open door that let in the fear.
I came down with the flu three days after my mother died. It was the most terrible flu I’d ever had and I was bed-ridden for about four days. The flu symptoms stayed with me for about three weeks, but I had to get moving as soon as I was able because I had the pressure of getting my apartment emptied and my bags packed for my big move. Maybe this was when the fear slipped in, because during all this ginormous change, I felt so sick and disoriented that I thought I was going to die. I remember coughing and coughing, strangling and coughing all night long, night after night and day after day for three weeks straight. No amount of cold medicine or Scotch would take the edge off and after two weeks my lungs felt like they would dislodge with every cough. I felt like I was drowning in phlegm and the fatigue was devastating. Add to that the shock and the stealthy anxiety that was creeping into my system and you have a recipe for some bad shit to come together in the mind.
My heart began racing during this time and beating so intensely that I could hear it in my ears. My first thought was that I had developed high blood pressure. And why not? My diet had become crappy with me eating out all the time and I had not been exercising at all. Hell! I could hear the blood coursing in my ears! My mom’s heart had been racing during the last year of her life. She would speak to her doctors about it and they ran tests but no problems could be found. The racing heart, though, despite what doctors said were still a part of my mom’s death process and my racing heart gave credence to the fear that was attempting to take root in my mind.
On top of all this, one night, I was lying in bed and there was a terrible, sharp, tight pain in the center of my chest. It rolled around to my back and it felt like I had a vise around me squeezing. That icy fear crept up my spine and I thought, this is what death looks like. This is what death feels like. The pain came two forms, one in percussive forces right in my heart and the other in the form of squeezing and pressure. My whole body was throbbing and I began to gasp thinking what should I do? Well, the only power I had in that instance, the only glimmer of hope I had was my breath. That was the only thing I could use to take off the edge and get clarity. So I stood up and began to do my deep breathing connecting to Source and to Gaia. Deep breaths up to Source and down to Gaia. I opened up all my channels and surrendered to whatever was going to happen in that moment– in each moment. Slowly, the vise around my chest began to loosen. My back relaxed, my jaw relaxed and my lungs filled fuller and fuller with air and life. That terrible pain slackened and soon went away. I had escaped the fear of death’s grip again.
This morning, I got up to pray and as I was talking to God, I began to giggle. I said, “You know, God, I have been dealing with fear of dying. What is it?” And God’s answer to me went something like this: (OH! Please know that God speaks to me sometimes in first person, sometimes second and sometimes in third. Today, it was first person) “I am experiencing a disconnection from Source. All fear is a disconnection from Source. If I truly understood and truly KNEW that I am God, then I would not have a fear of death.”
This fear of death comes from a belief that the body is the only thing that we have. Fear makes us see the self as the body and close our eyes to the infinity of spirit. Fear makes us treat the body, not like a temple that houses the sacred but rather like the thing that is the sacred. The body becomes the source of all of our good. It is like the ring in Lord of the Rings. We behave like Gollum who protected and treasured his ring, his Precious, above all else– even to the detriment of his essence. Like the ring, our body becomes the source of our engagement with the world and we hoard and protect this body with its guardian– the lower mind or ego. We let the five senses tell us the nature of a thing and we take that information and use it as the foundation to inform our understanding of it. But of course, our five senses are limited and can only give limited information. Fear then builds up around that which lies beyond our understanding. That’s what happened to me over the last month anyway. With my mom went my trust. This is only impacted by the fact that I don’t feel my mother around me anywhere. Friends keep asking me, “Has your mother visited you?” I think, that’s fucking rude. No. Obviously your deceased mother hangs out with you all the time, offering you guidance, putting her hand on your shoulder, rubbing your back, offering you guidance, letting you know you’re not alone, letting you know she loves you tremendously and that you behaved perfectly at her death and she has no lasting resentment of you; but mine does not. There haven’t been any strange noises, no fallen knickknacks, no delicate footsteps, no whispered words of love or forgiveness in my ear. What I’ve had is sickness, sadness, anxiety, alopecia, loneliness, fear and food.
With that said, I am still conversing with God about the disconnection. We only had this conversation this morning and I still need to let him speak to me in other ways– maybe through the tea leaves, maybe through the light on the fallen snow. In the meantime, I realize that this fear of death is perhaps not about death, but about loss. Maybe the fear of death is about anger and alienation. Maybe the fear of death is about wishing for death– wishing for life to be over so that I need not feel this pain any more. Just sayin’…