Rev. Nancy's Blog

The Fullness of Dying

A guest essay from Rev. John C. Robinson, Ph.D.:

While reading Nancy Schluntz's lovely manuscript on spiritual communication with animals - I'd been asked to provide an endorsement [for Hand in Paw, a Journey of Trust and Discovery] - this amazing paragraph simply leapt off the page before me. Speaking about her cat, Hand_in_Paw_Cover_for_Kindle 2Nancy said, "Tyson was dying. He’d made the how of his crossing clear—he wanted to do it his way, to have the fullness of the experience of dying, as he had of living. The when shifted as new things captured his interest, or he simply changed his mind. My master teacher and beloved commentator loved being a cat. He did not like being an old cat." I particularly loved her phrase - to have the fullness of the experience of dying, as he had of living - and her description of Tyson's ambivalence about dying, which so well expresses our common journey into death.

We so often view dying as a terrible tragedy, a dirty trick arriving as the road of life reaches its natural destination. Certainly dying before one's time may be tragic (though even that is up for debate if you consider the literature on the NDE), but in old age? Why must our view of dying be so grim? And what would it mean to "have the fullness of the experience of dying" as we've had of living? What if the process of dying itself were filled with the most remarkable discoveries, experiences and realizations of our lifetime? What if the secrets of life - and our own life in particular - were revealed as the veil lifted?

Both my parents had death-bed visions - of loved ones coming for them, of the other world, and of their life's meaning. My father spoke of losing his fear of dying because he'd seen the other side and we observed my mother querying her unseen (to us) visitors of what lay in store for her after death. Hospice workers will tell that these kinds of "visions" are actually quite common as consciousness penetrates the mist separating the worlds. And the fullness of death comes not just at the end. The approach of death inspires us to communicate deeply with family and friends - about love, gratitude, and the forgiveness. The fullness of death may be one of life's greatest gifts. Perhaps Carl Jung was correct in describing death as "goal" of life, providing its final meaning and metamorphosis.

Can you imagine the fullness of your own death? Can you picture it as a wondrous graduation ceremony, a celebration of all you loved, learned and achieved, an enormous love fest of gratitude and appreciation? We need to separate the personal grief evoked in losing the other from the other's amazed transition across the divide into a glory beyond our wildest imaginings. This is neither "wu wu" thinking nor New Age metaphysics, it is the testimony of countless thousand people describing their Near-Death Experiences.

So I say that Tyson the cat had it right and I thank him for sharing his insights with my friend Nancy.

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This guest blog from Rev. John C. Robinson, Ph.D., originally published November 8, 2013. John's website, books, and blog with wisdom about Boomer aging can be found at www.JohnRobinson.org.