Saturday, January 9, 2010

Gently Down a Stream…Life is but a Dream

Dreams are real as long as they last. Can we say anymore about life? ~ Henry Havelock Ellis

If, as Carl Jung proposed, the psyche has a foreshadowing of death before it comes, how do the physical circumstances of death line-up with it? And if the psyche does indeed experience a foreshadowing of death through dreams and intuition, where does it come from? Does the foreshadowing imply a design?

I believe the life force was draining out of my father long before the car accident that led to his death, in the same way that a bright leaf hangs from a tree in October, and when you see it you know it’s only a matter of time before it will fall. A hard frost or gust of wind is like the equivalent of the physical circumstances (illness, accident, etc.) that precipitate death. And the leaf dropping from the tree is like the body, something we slip out of when it’s old.

“The tree doesn’t die when the leaves on it do. But are we like the tree, or just a leaf growing on it?” I posed the question to my husband on the ride home from my father’s funeral in an effort to convince myself of the continuity of life. As one who struggles with religiously framed tenets, understanding life and death by looking at nature appeals to my sense of logic.

But I don’t understand! Not really.

“The tree does die! Eventually,” I blurted out an hour later, as if I had the discovered the answer to a riddle, or a hole in the theory.

“The earth doesn’t die when the tree does. Are we like the earth, or just the tree growing on it?” I quipped, knowing my line of questioning could go one endlessly. “Do we go on endlessly?” I seemed to be asking.

Hospice caregivers and others who work with death report that many dying patients who start out fearfully resisting death often come to accept it. Acceptance is facilitated through dreams, contact with unseen forces, or an internal process, and is often accompanied with a burst of energy and marked lucidity. Is that what was happening to my father when, after being frustrated, impatient and confused for weeks, on the last two days of his life, he was (in my sister Sherry’s words) “almost ecstatic.” On the last day of his life, he announced excitedly “Today’s the day! Everything is coming off (tubes, neck brace, etc.),” and he looked at the calendar repeatedly as if he knew (in my sister Kathy’s words) “his contract was up.”

Some people believe that the soul makes a decision to be born. Maybe we don’t die either, unless some sort of agreement is made, whether we are consciously aware of it or not.

~ Originally posted on December 6, 2005.

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