The Scott Shaw Blog Be Positive

Charting the Timeline of Death

The simple reality is, we are all going to die. The secondary reality to this fact is, while we live, we are going to witness those we know and care about passing on.
Like I have long said, there is no good way to die. Perhaps the quicker the better, as I have witnessed some people dying over a long period of time, and it is not pretty.  But, I guess it is similar to being born, where that birth experience seems fairly traumatic to the newborn, not to mention the mother. But, no matter what the case, your life, my life, it is not going to live forever—it is not going to last forever.
Sure, religion promises us all kinds of things. For example, if you are a good Christian and you have not sinned too much: you have not killed, stolen, cheated, been prideful, been a liar, and all of that kind of stuff… Or, if you have sought forgiveness for your sins, and made restitution, then maybe you will go to heaven. If not, look out. Then, comes hell.
If you are a good Hindu or a Buddhist then you can look forward to being reincarnated into a better situation next time around. Other religions offer other promises. But, the fact of the fact is, when you are dead you are dead and no matter what promises were made to you in your holy books, those words don’t change the fact that you will be dead.
Death has never been a stranger to me. It was brought clearly home when my grandfather, my father’s father, passed away on Christmas Eve when I was three years old. I remember sitting around in the hospitable waiting room all night until he passed on and then we went home in the early dawn and I was told to open my Christmas presents. Even at three, that just felt so weird.  
I lost my dog, who I really loved, not too far after that.
My father’s passing away when I was ten, really drove it home. My young life, and the experiences I was forced to live due to his passing, have left me scarred forever. Death is never easy.
I was thinking about my friend of over fifty years, who passed away about a year ago. This is what drove me to this questioning. That thought led me to thinking about my friend and Zen Filmmaking brother, Donald G. Jackson, who passed away over twenty years ago.
It’s kind of strange, as my thought process went, if you would have told me I had twenty more years to live, the year he died, I would have thought, that’s a very long time. Now, it’s been over that, I’m still alive, and it seems like such a short period of time. It was just yesterday that we were making Zen Films together.
The fact of life is, you are going to lose people you care about to death. Their loss may change you forever. The other fact of life is, you too are going to die.
Like everyone always says, it is all what you do with your life; how you live it and what you do that will truly define you and how you will be remembered. That’s all very true. But, when you bring death down to its most elemental level, whomever dies, whether it be someone you know, someone you don’t know, or even you, gone is gone.
There’s all this talk about doing what you’re doing, making your life the best it can be. Me, I always tell people to care about other people and to help as many people as possible, while hurting no one. But, when you are no more, when you have taken your last breath, then what?
It all comes down to a very simply reality. No matter what promises of the afterlife you may believe, when you are gone, you are gone. When those you love are gone, before you are gone, they are gone.
Even if we look to the Buddhist Heart Sutra, where one of its main closing phrases is the mantra, “Gate Gate Pāragate Pārasamgate Bodhi Svāhā,” which roughly translates into, “Gone gone, gone beyond, gone utterly beyond to the other shore!” The other shore meaning enlightenment.
This mantra is based around the Buddhist understand that, “Form is emptiness, (śūnyatā), emptiness is form.” Okay… All good. The Buddhists believe that everything ultimate means nothing. But, is that true? Do you mean nothing? Do your feelings mean nothing? Does your life mean nothing? If that is true, why do you even feel? Why were you born only to eventually die?
Now, I can recite to you a million answers to those questions. I can quote you passages from scriptures and sutras that tell you the why of all that. And sure, from a metaphysical perspective, you can claim that. You can even ready yourself to transcend beyond life. But, at the essence of life is death. It is an unescapable reality. We have life. We live our life. Some of us look to the higher calling of enlightenment as an answer. Some focus on relinquishing their ego and their self-desire and truly trying to help the world and its people and its environment. Okay… But, you still die.
Most people are so busy living their life that they never even ponder their death. They never think about what road they will walk upon towards their dying.
If you live your like that, you are harboring an illusion. You are hiding from the truth.
Answer: There really is none. But, the one fact of the fact is, all the people you know will die. You will die. You must ask yourself, how consciously will you be able to process any of those things: the death of others and your death? How consciously will you be able to experience your death? The answer to these questions, will lead you to the ultimate understanding of this life, because when you are gone you are gone. What path will you walk to get there?
Take a moment and ponder this. It may change your life before you die.