Along with many other traditions, Filipino or otherwise, one that I no longer subscribe to is the celebration of “All Souls’ Day” — at least, not in the customary way. It came with the shift in my view of death and dying, life and living.
What most impacted me which ushered in the shift in my view is the sudden and unexpected passing on of my aunt. And I witnessed it.
Quite intriguingly, in January 1999, for seemingly no apparent reason, I purchased a funeral plan, the ‘buy-one-get-one-free’ promotional offer which was a major trend in the Philippines at the time. For the price of one, I purchased two plans. One for me; the other, little did I know then, was going to be for my aunt, who unexpectedly passed on barely two months later.
The plan naturally came in very handy. My purchase couldn’t have been better timed. Tita Lola’s funeral proceedings were easily taken care of but not without the usual family related bickering. Unresolved family conflicts were triggered.
I am just fascinated, if not entertained, by how death almost always brings up unresolved issues. It amuses me that, often, those issues do not even directly concern the one who passed on. We humans are really funny. We’re so good at creating chaos and drama during family gatherings and special occasions like birthdays, weddings, funerals, Thanksgiving, Christmas holidays! At least that’s how it was with my family. 🙂 Same ol’, same ol’. 🙂
The spirit of alcohol or Tita Lola?
On the evening before Tita Lola’s funeral, I was preparing my eulogy. Alone in my apartment with only bottles of beer keeping me company (I was still heavily drinking then), I asked Tita Lola to talk to me and tell me what she wanted me to convey. Aside from the spirit of alcohol in my system, I strongly felt Tita Lola’s presence. Like her spirit took over me as I was typing away incessantly on my laptop!
“Ok! Ang husay mo palang magsulat! (Ok! You write very well!),” remarked my cousin Betty whom I immediately called after I finished typing. I shared what I wrote and asked for her opinion. I was afraid for any critique that I might receive from my family. I was being very careful not to offend anyone or be unduly criticized. Yeah, yeah, yeah…me and my need for approval and validation! 😉 But I also only know my family so well…
“Well it wasn’t really me. I simply took dictations from Tita Lola,” I retorted back after receiving, thankfully, her stamp of approval.
The shift in my beliefs about death and dying
I cannot recall anymore the details of what I said. I do remember vividly one point which I stressed —“No tears please.” It is a time for celebration. Her soul is now liberated from its suffering and all the pain associated with the human experience and earthly living. Her soul is taking a step closer to its eventual rejoining with the Creator. Isn’t that reason enough to be joyous? Interestingly too, the priest officiating the Holy Mass pretty much delivered the same message during his homily. Hmmmm…I’m not that much of a radical or maverick after all. 😉
I’ve since become so much clearer about death. I now look at death (and life) differently.
Who or what dies?
Albert Einstein has already shown us that everything is energy. E v e r y t h i n g. Seen and unseen.
We are energy. Our bodies are made up of energy. Our soul is energy.
So, who dies? What dies?
“Energy never dies, it only changes form.” (Dolores Cannon, The Three Waves of Volunteers and the New Earth)
If the soul is our essence and the body is the container for this essence, if the soul is eternal and the body is dense material, who then dies?
No one, isn’t it?
Our bodies are merely physical vehicles, a container for our souls which are the ones that are truly eternal. The soul is our essence; the body is a form of matter.
When an individual passes on, the soul doesn’t die. The soul simply leaves the physical container. And the soul, the eternal soul moves on in its journey. It experiences whatever is necessary, if any, for more growth and evolution, and for the eventual reunion with the Divine.
“The old Mexicans did not perceive life and death in contrast as we do. Life continued in death, while on the other hand death was not the natural end of life but only one chapter in a never-ending story. Life, death and rebirth were only different stages of the endlessly repeating universal process.“ Magdaléna Koháková, Literární noviny (from Spirit Rock Meditation Center facebook page)
And because of the shift in my concept of death, I’ve stopped going to wakes and attending funeral services. One of my many eccentricities! 😉
“I am over going to funerals”
Two years ago, I watched an episode of the Oprah show which featured Shirley MacLaine. She was talking about her latest book, “I’m Over All That: And Other Confessions ” which I immediately purchased after the show. Shirley talked about her list of ‘been-there-done-that’s.’ I was intrigued. She also disclosed juicy details of her open marriage and other Hollywood affairs. (Ok. My own true confession. It was the latter which really made me get a copy of the book! ;-))
The book inspired me to reflect on my own list. What else do I like to be over and done with? Among the many which Shirley has gotten over is going to funerals. I was thrilled to “meet” another member of the no-longer-attending-funerals- club! 🙂
“I never liked funerals. I remember the funeral of a despised Hollywood mogul. So many people attended that someone quipped, ‘Gee, give the people what they want and they really will show up!’ I like paying respects to a life well lived, but I know the person we are mourning is not dead. And the idea of getting closure? Why say that? The departed one has just gone on to another level of understanding. When someone I love passes on, I go immediately to a place where I spent time with them. I sit there and call them to me, just to know they’re still around. Usually, I can feel them and they feel better that I don’t feel sad. I feel people don’t want to ‘die’ because they know that those left behind will feel sad and bereft. Maybe more of us would go sooner if we knew it would be all right with those who are left behind.” (Source: MacLaine, Shirley (2011-04-05). I’m Over All That (p. 146). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.)
How about you? When you hear of someone passing on, what do you do? How do you feel? Joyful? Sad? Do you shed tears? Are they tears of joy and relief, or regrets and ‘what-if’s’? Of pain and grief? What or who do you grieve for? ‘Losing’ the individual or letting go of the attachment to the experience with the individual? If you cry, why do you? Do you cry for the ‘dead’ or the ‘living’, those of us left behind?
- Childish and Child-like Was My Aunt – In Memory of Tita Lola, Part 1
- So Long, Tita Lola – In Memory of Tita Lola, Part 4
- To Publish or Not To Publish My Post
# # #