You have probably heard the phrase, “What is the elephant in the room?” This is a phrase that represents something that is really big that no one wants to confront or talk about.
A few years ago I had an experience of waking up in the middle of the night in total terror. I struggled over many hours to reduce my fear and get myself calmed down. Finally, sitting on the edge of my bed, I asked myself a question. “Patt why are you so frightened?” What came back was the unspoken elephant in my life, “Patt, you are afraid to die.” That had been the big elephant in my life for a long time. I had sat with the dying when I worked in hospice. I had accepted my part in facing other people’s death. Death had always been there but I had consciously avoided facing my own death.
I had never really thought of myself dying. As many of you may have done, a few years ago I did what I was told to do and I had a trust written, but never with the thought that I would die. I have been like most of us that really didn’t think or talk about my own death. It is as if we all turn away from death, but somehow we can never hide from it. Is this the elephant in your life too?
There is a teaching in the Sufi tradition with the character of Mulla Nasrudin. Nasrudin is characterized as the “wise fool” in the Islamic tradition. As I recall the story Nasrudin bumped into Death on a street in Mecca. Nasrudin was absolutely surprised and the “fool’s” blood went cold. That night, Nasrudin fled on a sleek stallion and rode away from Mecca faster than the wind. The next day, he was riding into a hillside village far from Mecca. Rounding the bend in the road, he bumped into Death. In terror he heard Death say, ” I was surprised to see you in Mecca as I had an appointment with you in this distant village this very morning.”
Like Nasrudin we can try to run away from death but we cannot hide from it. Even if we try to avoid our feeling that death will not happen to us, but only to others, we are all in for a big surprise. One of the ways to reduce the fear is to face our death consciously and be prepared for the time of death. We prepare for our education, our jobs, our vacations but never think of preparing for the most important journey of our life that can take us home to freedom. More importantly, confronting this elephant of death in our life now can give us more joy and vitality as we move toward this amazing event called our dying.
Don’t miss Patt’s transformational guide Embracing the End of Life: A Journey into Dying & Awakening to be released in September 2017. I invite you to pre-order now on Amazon.com.