Inspired by Roger Housden – Our Place at the Table
This is no one’s favorite topic, but I persist, for more and more these days, as occurs in the natural course of aging, I ponder death. And you know what; it is truly the most powerful contemplation I have experienced yet. Now if you’re 40 or less, I get it; your hand is on the way to the “red X” in the tab or the close box command, and that’s okay. As useful an adviser as it can be, death is just too abstract early on. But for the rest of us, the value of opening to the reality that we are indeed a date-stamped item like all else in the universe, has tremendous power to free us from our fear and offer us yet another chance at authenticity.
I have stared into the face of death several times in my life through illness diagnosis, wild animal encounters and my own hand during desperate years. But even that didn’t encourage me to stand nose-to-nose with death to see why it looked so scary. It took a casual comment from a lifelong friend saying, “I hope I have at least 15 more years so I can share my life and music with my granddaughter,” to bring me up short. All I heard was 15 years…. I began to look at that time period. I’ve been in the States now 17 years and that has gone by like a blink. My next thought wasn’t the sage-like acceptance I would rather have enjoyed, but neither was it the panic I had endured in those other times when death bated me. Instead, I finally felt the power that ultimate deadline possessed. For consciously backed up against it by choice, it offered the most solid ground I’d stood on in a long time. And then as if in acknowledgement, I felt an impasse I’d been banging into for a while begin to shift, and the siren song of my smarter parts whisper, “Enough, enough. There are no games worth playing. Can’t you see that now?” And there in the face of a moving date, not yet established but definitely real, I could reply, “I see that, yes, I finally see.” As all that resistance and tension of a species constantly on guard dropped away, I heard the words again of writer Roger Housden:
Whoever we are, no matter how successful or lonely, sooner or later our place at the table of life will be cleared and we will be gone. When we remember this … something softens in us. We breathe a little easier. We remember that every one of us is in the same leaky old boat. So why not share our kindness while we still have time.