Emily Dickinson once said “Unable are the loved to die. For love is immortality”
I recently watched a documentary on the Tibetan Book of the Dead. I watched the process of how the scripture was read to the person who had just died for 49 days after death (at which time, the Tibetan Buddhists believe that the soul reincarnates). The kindly read scriptures are intended to help the deceased navigate through the afterlife and attain a favorable reincarnation. The date of the cremation is carefully chosen using astrological charts (again to help the deceased gain a favorable reincarnation) and the box that carries the person’s remains were humbly but cheerfully decorated not unlike a birthday gift. Friends and family were there to witness the cremation and to release their attachment to the deceased, so that the soul could be free to move on. After all this, the ashes were taken to a remote area and left to the elements. There was no marker or headstone. The ashes would soon be swept away by the snowy Himalayan winds.
The locals were asked if they were scared of death. They answered “No” that it was just a natural part of life. They seemed to embrace the fact that being alive means that there is no true resting place, that we are all travelers stopping off here for a while. There were tears, but not bitter tears. The thing that struck me most was their willingness to appreciate life, love and letting go.
Whether or not you believe in reincarnation is not the purpose of this article. I want to write about how human beings love and keep loving when they have lost someone precious to them.
The first thing that struck me was the loving act of reading something to help the one who has died for 49 days. Whether or not you believe that people live on after they have passed, I reckon the act of doing something so selfless in honor of the one you love would soothe your own heart and prevent bitterness. If the person who has died can hear you, what a comfort and a joy to be sent off in such a heartfelt way.
Prayer and special attention to trying to help the loved one into a favorable and new life also speaks to this affect but also helps the ones who are left behind to focus on wishing the departed good things and letting them go, even though it’s hard.
The loved ones were there to witness the body turn back to dust. It is their chance to say their final goodbyes. Perhaps the fire symbolizes release, cleansing and transforming. I have to say I got a lump in my throat when I saw the small pile of ashes on the mountain top. The possessions of the deceased were auctioned off to the community by the monks. It seemed like a reminder to all to remain humble, that the only thing we are left with when we die is the love we shared and the spirit we fly off with.
If only we went through such rituals when we lost the ones we loved here in this country, perhaps we could all grow into better people through our grief. Perhaps we could appreciate our lives a little more and learn to love each other with an open hand.
Most of you have probably heard of the 7 Stages of Grief by Kubler Ross (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) so I am not going to go into detail about them though you can find a great deal of information about it on the web. For me, I have found that big losses such as these are a little like dropping a large rock into a glassy lake. The grief comes in rather large waves at first, but over the years the waves get a little smaller. The sun comes out again, and the ripples become even smaller, but the sweet pain of that love is still there to give you courage and remind you to take great care of your time here on earth.
If you have recently lost someone, why not grieve like the pros?
1.) Take time each day to read something inspiring to help your loved one journey on for a period of time.
2.) Say prayers each day for their safe arrival, wherever they have gone.
3.) Create a ritual to set them free with your blessing. Maybe you could write your goodbyes on a piece of paper, fold it into a paper boat and send it down the river.
4.) Take some time and think about what you can do with the incredible love that they left behind. Some of the greatest art, poetry, music and social endeavors have been created as a result of tragedy and loss.
Gather people around you and listen to their stories. You will find that we are all on a road to the same place, we all have pain and we are all just doing the best that we can as travelers on a mysterious and winding road.