Death Is On Your Left
When we finally know we are dying, and all other sentient beings are dying with us, we start to have a burning, almost heartbreaking sense of the fragility and preciousness of each moment and each being, and from this can grow a deep, clear, limitless compassion for all beings — Rinpoche
I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory— Miranda
One day on a boat I asked a man with a grim reaper tattoo on his left shoulder why he had it. He said this:
Death is on your left. It’s always there. You never know when it’s coming. You can ignore it. But you do so at your peril.
The skulls around our house aren’t real skulls.
One of the skulls is Mexican, from the Day of the Dead. Another one is green and beaded and African looking, from Cameroon. The third is a skull on a pillow. The fourth is a Mensch, a skeleton man on a poster, a good guy I thought it meant — in the Jewish sense — but someone else told me it just means man, in German.
That confused me.
The Day of the Dead skull is the one we got most recently. It’s my favorite, because it’s colorful — blue and orange and more. I have always loved the Day of the Dead — a chance to celebrate death rather than to treat it like that awful scene in the cemetery. A day to help children learn a difficult lesson. Kids like the colorful skulls and skeletons that look like they can dance and talk. They make death look alive. They make death look happy. They make death look friendly. In America, we have Halloween. It seems to serve the same purpose. Skeletons. Witches. Goblins. We make death fun.
The man in the boat went on:
Do not be afraid of death. Treat it with reverence, and with gratitude. Live with the awareness that it could arrive any day. Live in such a way that if it did come today, you could say thank you. Thank you for this life. Without you, my life would have had less urgency. Without you, my life would have had less meaning. Without you, I might have forgotten that we are all the same, that we are all one, that we all die poor. Death, you brought out the best in me. Though I have been avoiding you my whole life, I am grateful that you were always right there, right on my left.