Each time the losses and deceptions of life teach us about impermanence,
they bring us closer to the truth. When you fall from a great height,
there is only one possible place to land: on the ground-the ground of truth.
And if you have the understanding that comes from spiritual practice,
then falling is in no way a disaster, but the discovery of an inner refuge.
~ Sogyal Rinpoche
‘Twas Christmas night, and the 2nd night of Hanukkah when my phone started blowing up with multiple ping-a-rings of incoming text messages. Resisting temptation, I left the phone alone – until 5 a.m. the next morning. Nooooo!! Musical artist, George Michael died. People I knew well, who knew I was a career-long admirer reached out; sharing the news, expressing their own shock, perhaps seeking solace among a fellow fan. I spent the day mourning the loss through continual play of his music, watching videos and interviews. I fully immersed; reminiscing with many songs: where I was, what happened, who I was with, etc. Keenly aware another life — there have been stunningly many lives this year, 2016 — has transitioned and something has ended — again.
“All humans must cope with the death of their loved ones…”
~ Unknown, From Survival to Recovery
George Michael is a stranger, yet also a loved one. I did not know him personally, I only knew his musical talent – – and I love it — the gift he was given that he gave to me and others like me who enjoyed his music, who grew-up with his music: Hypnotic, seductive, rebellious, soulful, elegant, sophisticated, kitchy. George Michael is one year older than me. Perhaps we grew-up together and how as his career evolved and his life unfolded, I remained loyal. As he was changing, so was I and it still fit.
A day later, barely catching my breath, another loss…Carrie Fisher. Sure, she’s Princess Leia for thousands, that’s how I met her too, in 1977, but that’s not who I loved. I loved the broad who came from a dysfunctional family, struggled with addiction, mental illness and rose from the ashes of her own privileged chaos of a life to become a writer, author, and comically outspoken empress of story telling.
And now the very next day, her mother, the great Debbie Reynolds died too. I can’t keep up, though it’s not about me, it’s about acceptance of the time-limiting fragility of life. Journalist Dan Rather, following the announcement of Ms. Reynolds’ passing poignantly wrote, “Life is fickle and death all of our eventual destination. We must to do our part to take the moments given to us and cherish the love of those we hold close.”
While the news of all these life passings are both a shock and emotionally draining, I’m in a better place of acceptance than I was… 8 months ago, last April, when I learned Prince died.
The surprise announcement of The Artist, Prince Rogers Nelson’s, death, hit me in a way I didn’t understand. I didn’t know Prince either. Yet, when I learned the devastating news, while standing in a Bed, Bath and Beyond store, I began to sob as though I’d just lost a dear friend. I wept for days every time I heard his music, watched the movie Purple Rain, and reminisced. I couldn’t put my head around it, let alone my heart. All I knew (and didn’t) of Prince nothing made sense. Prince was an icon, an innovator, a creative force that penetrated more than his own individual performances. Charismatic, tough, private, mysterious, sexy, flamboyant, generous and most of all –his own person, on his own terms. For this, I always admired him, I wanted to be like him, fearless and devout to his own individuality, his ideals and beliefs.
These talented humans are my generation. I’m confronted with the reality of mortality, also known as impermanence. It’s part of my pain in their passing. I’ve felt sadness of the news of many people who have passed this year, yet, those closest to my age or who’s talents I love and chose to infuse into aspects of my life hit me the hardest. I resist admission of impermanence, believing somehow I am immune, exempt from the experience. Quite greedy of me, isn’t it?
In Buddhism, the term “impermanence” is part of doctrine describing the three marks of existence. The doctrine asserts that all of conditioned existence, without exception, is: transient, evanescent, inconstant.
Death is inevitable. Truth. For many, denial of that reality, acceptance of truth, an end of life, is where pain and suffering exists. For others, myself included, we aren’t afraid of death; what we’re afraid of is when and/or how the death will come. How often we hear someone say, “Gone too soon.” Really? Says who? You? Greedy you. You don’t get a say. Neither do I. Deal with it, because life is indeed fickle and death is all our eventual destination. This is impermanence.
What I welcome is how death forces me into gratitude. I look at the legacy that I was impacted by, affected by, embraced by, loved by and loved. How it will always be with me, even if the human no longer is, there is a permanent impermanent force.
“Death is a natural part of life.
Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force.
Mourn them do not.
Miss them do not.
Attachment leads to jealously.
The shadow of greed, that is.”