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DEATH, WHERE IS THY STING?


 


Great grandmother with black hair and a nice smile
Grandma Sadie

I woke up to news that my good friend of 50 years passed away suddenly – unexpectedly – yesterday.

 

Shock is the understandable reaction, maybe a little bit lessened because I am 3,500 miles away, but still….

 

Numbness. Sadness. Disbelief. Anger.

 

Shock and confusion.

 

I just spoke with him a day ago, to wish him and his wife Happy Hanukkah on the first night of the Jewish Festival of Lights, that Season of Miracles – when the lamps of the Temple burned for 8 nights, even though there was only enough oil for one night, according to the  Talmud (Shabbat 21b).

 

The Jewish Festival of Lights coincides with Christmas, and both occur during the darkest nights of the year, a time when we most need a Light in the World.

 

Themes of Light and darkness, miracles and wonders seem so academic when confronted with the immediate “fact” of someone’s death.

 

Where can we find answers? Where can we find comfort?


Where can we find light in the darkness, a light that will last even though it appears that our supply of oil is barely adequate?

 

What is the Truth? Which “reality” is the real Reality: the one we see, feel and experience everyday – physically, emotionally, mentally? Or the one we’re told by most religions and philosophies is out there, somewhere, just beyond the clouds, beyond the stars.

 

These higher, ethereal, idealistic concepts and beliefs seem to fall apart like wet tissue paper when the thud of bad news hits us like a ton of bricks.

 

Of course, I have had friends and loved ones die before. Some unexpectedly, while others were in failing health over a long period. A sudden death is like a ton of bricks falling on you all at once. A slow decline and death feels like a ton of bricks settling down on you slowly.

 

In either case, the weight is the same – heavy, and almost unbearable.

 

Almost.

 

Almost, because there is a quiet part of us that knows that the physical is ethereal, and our spirit is genuine. Or, in the ancient Biblical language, the  corruptible is fleeting, while the incorruptible is immortal.

 

 

What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Heaven. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever.

 

But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed!  It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.

 

Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:

 

“Death is swallowed up in victory.

O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?”

 

-- New Living Translation

 

 

If the physical world is a great illusion, a dream within a dream, as Edgar Allan Poe wrote – that tells us we are limited, finite, mortals, then what is outside the dream?

 

Everywhere there are hints, clues, inklings, affirmations that our true nature is eternal – our spiritual nature is the real Reality.

 

I could go off in ten different directions on scientific, quantum understandings of matter and energy, philosophical musings on being and nothingness, perception and knowing, or quote-worthy statements on the nature of existence.

 

Yet it all seems so futile in the face of a loved-one's dying – out of this material existence and into…..

 

What?

 

Nothingness?

Another realm?

 

Did they go to sleep? Or are we now asleep and they have now woken up?

 

I have had several experiences with the afterlife that I cannot deny.


After my boyfriend, Willie passed away, I had a very clear visitation from him in the somnambulant state just before you wake up. I saw him clearly squating down on the floor, his arm resting on his thigh, looking at me. This happened at a time when I was not yet on the spiritual path and when I rarely dreamed.


It was not a dream!



A handsome young man looks at the camera
Willie


Another time involved my grandmother, a Jewish woman (nominally Jewish -- her family had long ago stopped being religious). One day we had a conversation about death.

 

She did not believe in an afterlife. Judaism’s primarily focus is on life, here and now, rather than what happens after we die. She told me she believed that we die and that’s that


I disagreed, and told her my belief that we are energy, a soul, beings that outlast the body.

 

When she passed away, at the ripe age of 101 (and a half), in my sadness (and in my gratitude for having known her for more than 50 years) I wryly asked her, “Ok Granny, were you right, or was I right?”

 

Very soon after, she came to me in a clear and moving dream, like with Willie, one of those dreams that is more than a dream, that affirmed for me that she was still alive, still around.



A beautiful elderly woman smiles in her chair
Granny

 

More recently I’ve been doing some work – psychic healing, somatic experiencing, energy work with a friend who is quite gifted as a psychic and a gifted artist as well. At one point she drew a picture of someone in the room with us that looked a lot my grandmother’s mother, my Grandma Sadie. I pulled out a picture of her; the resemblance was striking.

 

And even more deeply, I visited the gravesite of my Grandma Sadie last year, for the first time ever, and (I realized later) probably the first time in decades that any family member had been to visit.

 

I arrived at the spot and got out of the car. I said, “Hi Grandma Sadie,” and immediately began uncontrollably sobbing which hit me “like a ton of bricks” and continued for a very long time.

 

Totally unexpected.

 

The echoes, the energies, the vibrations of our lives – of our being – are there before we are born into physical reality, and last long after we leave the physical body – lasting for eternity.

 

In the aftermath of a tragedy, a death, a loss, our human eyes and minds have to adjust to the physical fact that we no longer see our loved one, hear their voice or feel their touch with our body’s senses.

 

Yet with time and some understanding, we will feel sensations at a higher level, beyond the physical. We can sense, we can know that their presence is here with us.

 

I grieve with my friends and family today, who have lost a dear man, one who has been a part of our lives for half a century. I grieve because the loss is here/now at this time, on this planet where our lives unfold through time.

 

Yet, there are deeper feelings than grief, that I have and that I know are there. They will surface eventually: joy, love, warmth, peace. Joy in the blessing of his memory -- and the certainty that we will continue our friendship in another way, tomorrow and forever.

 

To Mark Hafter. To Willie. To Granny and to Grandma Sadie.

 

May their memory be a blessing.

 

Johnny

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