By Noam Kostucki
We experience death in many aspects of our lives. This year, 2016, is about to pass and give way to 2017. Jobs, relationships, phases of our lives pass away… and so do the people in our lives. When a job or relationship or year ends, we may mourn, but ultimately cherish what we experienced and anticipate the next steps. Can we do the same when people who have touched our lives pass away and continue their spiritual journey?
How do you experience life when people pass away around you? What do you pay attention to when someone passes? Here are some things to think about as you ponder these questions:
How real is death for others?
My dad is a cardiologist and his job ends when patients die. Some young, some old. My mum taught me a lot about our family’s history and how over 90% of her family died in World War II. At school, survivors of concentration camps would come every year and tell us how they lived while everyone else died. I remember my mum lighting a candle and telling me it was a blessing for the dead. She explained that people keep living as long as their name is spoken. As teenagers, you may remember dead pop stars and revolutionaries who were deeply alive in our hearts. It didn’t matter whether they were dead or alive. They were alive because they made us feel alive. Even though they can’t eat, wake up and have conversations, they lived through us. Physical death is “Death”, but one element of a complex equation.
How is death related to life?
I rediscovered death from a different perspective when I had to learn about legacy fundraising… the art of asking dying people for money in their will. Counter intuitively, people giving money in their will has very little to do with death, and very much to do with life. It’s about accomplishing in death what we couldn’t do alive. I worked closely with cancer patients in terminal conditions who explained that they’re nowhere near as scared of death as healthy people around them. Many see their death as the trigger that got them to be more alive.
Since I moved to Costa Rica, I’ve seen a lot of dead animals. One was a squirrel I rescued unsuccessfully. In the jungle, all dead animals are food for others. Larvae are born within the flesh of the dead animal. And as disgusting as it may seem, it is beautifully poetic: life comes from death. In most cultures, death is taboo, unspoken and/or uncomfortable. How we relate to death depends on the conversations we have about death, and with people whose lives are close to death.
How do you experience death?
Of the many people who passed this year, one is a 21-year-old Nepali girl who I had been mentoring for 3 years. She was in hospital for 4 weeks, fighting for her life. Her whole life had been about inspiring people to create change, and in her death, she showed the result of her life. When I received the news she had died, I felt overwhelmed with joy and happiness for the beautiful life she had lived. I felt gratitude for having had the privilege to walk for 3 years by her side.This is the result of creating a meditation to honor the dead.
Give yourself time to explore the following questions about someone who has passed:
- What are all the emotions I feel towards them?
- How are they going to continue on living through me?
- What are the stories I want to remember and tell about them?
- What have I learned from them?
- Who will be inspired by them?
How to give the dead a spark of life
In my experience, when someone loses a loved one, those around them may not want to mention their name for fear of bringing up too much pain. However, I’ve been told by survivors that they enjoy talking about their loved ones who have moved on. When we talk about the people who passed, our words reignite their spark of life, in our hearts and in others’. It’s as if their energy and verve are still here, just in a non-tactile way.
Just as 2016 will soon give way to 2017, people in our lives many give way to the next world, the next phase of their existence. This is the natural course of events. I invite you to keep them alive by telling many stories about their time here and keeping them close even beyond their physical death.
Noam Kostucki helps create masterpieces. He works with entrepreneurs to raise funds, business owners to grow their company and investors to create a legacy. His books have been featured at the Stanford Technology Venture Program, the Business Entrepreneurs Academy and the Fashion Institute of Technology. Learn more and reach out to him via www.noam.wtf