Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Have you ever thought about death?

No, I mean really thought about it.

Have you contemplated the violent impact of a car crash and imagined your soul ripped apart from your body, or lying ill in a hospital bed as you felt the gentle numbing of your limbs as you slipped slowly away? Have you wondered what it would be like as the light faded to darkness and you knew your sight would never return to this world? Or imagined hearing the sound of the last beat of your heart?

Even if you have, take a moment. Close your eyes. Tune out the world.

OK, you can come back now. (I guess you have to open your eyes first.)

Why do I write about contemplating death? I was lying in the dentist's chair this morning (a good place to contemplate these sorts of ideas), talking with the dentist about death. Yes, I always talk about spiritual matters with people when I can. She asked me about my blog, and I had mentioned that it is both spiritual and humourous (at least, that's what you tell me). She wondered how I could talk about death is a humourous manner.

My first thought was to mention that it is said that the contemplation of death leads one to be more spiritual. (I thought it was 'Abdu'l-Baha who said this, but I can't find a quote to that effect. Whatever. It still seems to be true.) Over the last few days, I have asked a number of friends if they ever thought about their own death, and it was fairly consistent: those that I would call spiritual had, and those that I would not call spiritual had not.

Before I could say anything, though, she said that she didn't think I could do it.

"I don't know," I said, "I guess I can just find humour in anything. Can you imagine someone getting killed by being sat upon by an elephant?" And she laughed.

Of course, this is not to say that those left behind don't feel sadness or sorrow, but just that there can be humour in anything if you look hard enough.

We spoke, the dentist and I, for a little while about cultural boundaries and how this impacts how we can talk about spiritual ideas. And we spoke about death, namely our own.

Naturally, the following quote was mentioned: "I have made death a messenger of joy to thee."
"Joy?" She wondered how death coud be a bringer of a message of joy.
"I'm not sure," I honestly replied. "Let's think about it and figure it out." At least that's what I wanted to say, but I'm sure it came out as "Rye rot roar. Resh shrink rahrouw rih ahh siggeh ih owh." Fortunately, she was fluent in Dentist-ese.
And so we did look at it, while she continued to place all sorts of weird implements in my mouth.
We realized that the joy comes in two directions, both the leaving behind and the going towards. For the leaving behind, there must be a sense of joy at leaving behind you all the pain and misery that we can experience in our life, especially if our body is slowly failing. For the going towards, there must be another sense of joy, in terms of the excitement of a new adventure, and a moving closer to our Creator.
When asked about how we should approach death, the Master replied, "How does one look forward to the goal of any journey? With hope and with expectation. It is even so with the end of this earthly journey."
And that got me thinking about another journey: my impending move west. I will be leaving behind my home of 16 years and heading off into the relatively unknown, for I have never lived on the West Coast before. And even though I can still keep in touch with my dear friends through the wonders of technology, I am still leaving them behind. I know that when we drive past the Perimeter for the last time, I will pull over and shed a few tears by the side of the road. There is pain at the leaving.
But there is also joy: the joy of a journey, the joy of a new chapter in my life. There is the ever-present joy of moving forward.
Today, when going through all the accumulated material of the past couple of decades, I am finding myself tossing more and more aside, really questioning how much I want to keep. It is, after all, just dust. The memories are the important thing.
And this, again, is what makes me think about death.
What in my life is important? What do I really need to do? How do I want to spend my precious time here on this earth?
I am fortunate in that I know how much time I have left in Winnipeg, and can choose my activities accordingly. But we never know how much time we have on this planet.
My wife has just finished reading a book that was given to her by her mother about near-death experiences. In it, she found so much relating to the Faith. And one thing that really stood out was the number of people who said that they looked over their life and judged it by how much time was spent carrying forward civilization.
What do I own, in this house, that will help me in carrying forward civilization? What will be useful as I try my best to help better society? What, in my life, will be conducive to contributing to the construction of a better world and a healthy civilization?
For if something does not help me in those areas, why do I have it?
And this is what contemplating death helps me do.
Now just pretend that I've added a funny line here at the end, and go about your day with the smile that this joke would have provided. Thanks. Oh, and rinse and spit, please.


  1. Hi Mead, I just stumbled upon your blog and have been just blown away with some of your statements. I am also a Baha'i and really enjoy finding blogs that are both spiritual and humorous. Your articles truly make me reflect about my own life and conduct, without falling into self criticism. Thank you so much for your soulful approach and funny lines! Blessings to you!

  2. I forgot to ask in my last comment but could you please share the name of the book about near-death experiences? Thank you!

    1. Thank you for your kind comments, Cindy. The book my wife was reading was a French book. I don't actually know the name, but I do know that it is not available in English, unfortunately. I will ask her for the title when I get a chance.