The Picturing Death Project Journal Entries from 1999-2003

The simple but effective structure for the Picturing Death Project, a cast glass table, four chairs, and journals, provide a structure for journal writing with 4 questions that help participants examine how we will choose to live with the knowledge that death is inevitable. Currently, the project table, chairs and journals reside at Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan in Kalamazoo.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Journal Entry 691


When I think about death, I realize that I don't like thinking about it - who does? But then I also know that my beliefs about it have changed over the years as I have matured + grown in unexpected ways. I have never particularly feared death itself, but the process of dying. I have a friend who is dying in bits + pieces of a chronic, uncurable disease that is slowly robbing of her ability to live fully. Little by little, she is losing pieces of herself until soon she will be housebound. I would not like to live like that, but I don't think I would surrender + die willingly either. I just don't understand death at all - how can something, whether it's a person, an animal, or even a bug, be alive + full of the spirit of creation one moment, and dead + motionless the next? What is the distinction between one state + the next? How can people not be awed + overwhelmed by the essence of life + not respect it as it deserves. If we as a species were more reverent of life, perhaps we would not be so fearful of death. It is, after all, only the next stage - we do not cease to exist, but come to exist in a different form of energy. I do not believe in a Christian Heaven or Hell, not do I believe that after life is an endless void. I also don't believe is reincarnations without choice. I believe in the existence of a soul - part of creation - which exists now on earth because we chose to be here, to do our life's work. When it is done, we rejoin our Creator, and if we choose, we return to life to continue our work, or to learn whatever lessons we did not learn on a previous journey. Or we stay joined with our Creator as a conscious spirit.


My mother died of cancer 3 weeks ago. For her, I am so grateful that she quit fighting and allowed herself to move on. She loved butterflies, her entire little apartment was full of them. I can clearly see my mom fluttering along like a beautiful butterfly - free from pain at last. She had lessons to teach even at the end of her life. My older sister died in 1994, also of cancer. My mom had kept in touch with my sisters best friend Nancy ever since my sister died. When I called Nancy to tell her of my mom's death, she was surprised that she had lost her battle with cancer. My mom never told Nancy she had cancer. For over a year after her diagnosis, during phone conversations + correspondence, she never passed on her bad news. Nancy had been unexpectedly windowed in a tragic accident + my mom was more concerned about Nancy's well-being than her own. My last lesson from my mom dead at 86 years of age.


The only real concern I have is how much time do I have left? There is so much more I have to learn + do + see, I haven't even began my own life's purpose yet. So far, I have become an adult, helped my son to become an amazing adult, but I haven't done what I came here in this life to do. I only hope I have enough time to figure it out + accomplish my task. Otherwise, I guess I'll just have to come back again + start over.


After my son moved to another state, I felt very alone + isolated. In the loneliest hours of the night, I would picture my funeral + nobody came. That would be a great tragedy - not that I died alone, but that I died unmourned - meaning that I hadn't touched anyone else, or helped anyone else, or made a difference in someone else's life, so that my death mattered. I remember reading a memorial a friend of mine wrote about his aunt. She was poor and lived alone in a small town for many years. When she died he went to clean out her little apartment + found that all of her possessions fit into the trunk + back seat of his car. But when he went to her funeral service, the church was packed by all the people whose lives she had touched is small, simple ways. I hope that I live well enough that that is how I end my life - not to be mourned, but to be remembered with joy by people I knew.

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