Young Voices

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Young Voices, a new Pilot-Tribune feature, will share the opinions of student writers each week.

The Fine Art of Learning to Cope

"Go to the sky or to the earth, as is your nature," but is our society really ready to deal with death?


/ Special to the Pilot-Tribune

nce while I was babysitting a little girl, she told me, "My grandpa died but it is okay because he watches me play. He is in the trees and the birds and even the grass." I nearly wept at the words she said with a smile on her little face. Now here was a clear understanding of life and from whom but a child.

I was reminded of a verse from the Rig-Veda. "May your eye go to the sun, your life's breath to the wind. Go to the sky or to the earth, as is your nature; or go to the waters, if that is your fate. Take root in the plants with your limbs." We all return to nature one day.

Throughout our lives, no matter how much we try to ignore it we will experience the loss of loved ones and eventually our own deaths. We live in a culture where death and dying is not much talked about. Many of us are frightened to even mention the topic. We go about our days as if we and all the people we love are immortal.

The sad reality is this is simply not true. None of us can escape death. Instead of fearing and avoiding it, we need to learn to embrace it as part of life. Death is as much a part of our lives as our birth. The Buddha once said, "A lotus flower is born in water, grows in water and rises out of water to stand above it unsoiled." Death is a purification in some sense. A spirit is no longer subject to the sufferings of this world.

Even those of us who believe in some form of a life after death are still fearful of death. We doubt our beliefs, we fear we have not lived good lives; this is why we try to forget the topic. Throughout the last few years I have tried to train myself the opposite. I have tried to remember every day that I could possibly die today. Death is easier to forget than remember. Why live a pessimistic life where every day you remind yourself that you could die today?

This process has caused me to be more appreciative of the world I live in and the people around me. I worry when I forget to tell my parents or siblings that I love them, because there always is the possibility that I will not have the chance to say it again. When I fight with someone I try to clear things before I fall asleep because I may not wake up again.

We often find ourselves angered and upset when a loved one dies. "Why did they have to go die? I needed them." "Why would God take them away from me?" Their death starts to become about our own selfish needs instead of a celebration of their life. It is extremely hard to celebrate death and sometimes people think it is obligatory to cry because they are seen as not caring if they do not. It is perfectly okay to shed tears, we have feelings and we will miss the person. But we must remember death is not a goodbye.

That person is not gone from us completely. We have our memories of them. They are moving into a new cycle of life, entering eternal life, or returning to the earth. We will always have pieces of them.

Death is a part of life; it is piece of this great puzzle of existence. We should celebrate it along with all of the other moments in our lives, even the sad ones. "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; [...] a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance." Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, 4.

* Cassidy Ptacek attends Buena Vista University. She writes for the university newspaper, "The Tack."