So the question that I asked my friend - is one that I will ask you - how many deaths do you recall from your childhood? From your young adulthood? How many people within your larger social circles may have passed away within your community? It matters. Because our inability to see and hear what is in our larger circle of experience does not serve us. The invitation - get to know death at a distance before it is happening in your most intimate relationships. This will do nothing other than to serve you.
The title of today's podcast is Death is All Around. No Need to Fake It.
Now to some of you - that may seem a little familiar. If you were a TV watcher - I think - in the 60s or 70s, there was a episodic comedy show called The Mary Tyler Moore Show. And if you also watch reruns you might have run across the show. In the opening song, the lyrics went. “Love is all around. No need to fake it.”
But we're going to take that and turn it on its ear and say - death is all around. No need to fake it.
So, this podcast is a little extemporaneous today and it was based on a conversation I had with a nice acquaintance of mine. She is now 38 years old. We were talking and she said that it's only been since she was about 36 years old that she had anybody in my life die.
And I continued to listen to her her story and her story about the person who died. All the while, making a mental note that I wanted to wrap back in the conversation and ask her a little bit about something that she said.
So when she had drawn to a conclusion, I said: I would love to talk to you about something specific. I don't want it to make you feel uncomfortable and if it does, we can drop discussing it. But you mentioned something and it's kind of mapping on to something in my experience and so I'd kind of like to explore it with you. She was more than willing to have the conversation. And it did go very well and it was very interesting for both of us.
So I asked her - what was the size population of the place where you grew up? What was the size of your elementary school your junior high or high school? What was the size of your college and your employers that you went out into the world and worked for?
All of these environments were at a scale of, say, mid to high density - they were not low density communities for her. She lived in urban and suburban settings, went to larger schools had larger employers, and so forth.
And I said: let me unpack this with you, but I'm going to guess that there were people who died in your vicinity? But there may have been any number of reasons why you didn't notice, or don't recall them? And there's no harm no foul. But I wanted to tell her a little bit of something that had happened to me that was very instructive. It's also painful. So I'll throw that in there as well.
When I was 15, in high school, I was in several clubs that were more on the arty side of things. And there was a guy named Ron. He was in numerous clubs like that as well, so we had a lot in common, and we worked on some club activities together, extracurricular things. And we got to know each other and I enjoyed his sense of humor. I would count him as a medium good friend.
One day in school he came to me and he said My head is hurting really bad. And of course at 15 years old, I knew very little of anything, so I was suggesting aspirin, laying down, putting his head down. Several days in a row, he came to me and tell me that his head was hurting. And then it was hurting pretty badly. And finally I asked him, “Have you told your parents?”
And he said, “No, I don't want to worry them.”
That conversation is so fixed in my mind now, but at the time it didn't cross my mind as being something to be concerned about. I did not think to urge him to go talk to his parents about it or anything.
It was not too much later that Ron died of a brain aneurysm.
I was completely mortified.
I also felt a tremendous amount of guilt. I did not know what his parents knew or did not know. I felt that I had some kind of horrible secret that I had to hold.
It was a complicated situation for me, and not one that I talked to anybody about at the time.
So there was a memorial service scheduled for Ron, and I asked my mother about taking me because it was not within walking distance. My mom agreed to take me. We arranged for her to drop me off and pick me up. I was completely fine with going by myself. I had been in several funerals and memorials before. My assumption was that there would be some of our friends from high school, from the clubs that we were in, and that would be there that I could sit with.
When I got in there and looked around, I realized there was no one from my school that I knew in the memorial service.
I waited towards the back hoping to see someone that I knew, and the service got underway. No one ever came from my school.
It struck me very deeply that even though we were dependent upon our parents for transportation, that no one came.
No one came.
Did they not know, did they not pay attention? Were they blocking it? Were their parents not willing to bring them?
I have no answers for why in our clubs, some as large as 50 to 75 students. No one came.
My place is not to lay blame.
I think that we are face blind to death. I think we are tone deaf to death.
Meanwhile, I feel like death is all around us.
And that some of us choose to pay more attention, likely because of our own early experiences through no credit of our own. I feel like my sensitivities around death and grief, are not to my credit there because of the things that I've been through. So I take no honor in them, I realize that they're partly exposure.
But giving attention is partly around willingness, willingness to give attention, willingness to have bubbles burst, willingness to let illusions go.
So the question that I asked my friend - is one that I will ask you - how many deaths do you recall from your childhood? From your young adulthood? How many people within your larger social circles may have passed away within your community?
In the next 20 to 30 years there will be a higher percentage of deaths around us. Some statisticians are estimating as many as 20% more deaths, because of the population bubble. Death will seem a lot more around us.
Now again, as I say, some people are age blind, people can be age blind to anyone not in their cohort group, not actively noticing people who are not “like they themselves”.
This increase in deaths is, I believe, going to have an impact on our culture, it's going to impact how things feel how things sound, how they look, to have 20% more deaths around us.
Are you able to engage with that? Are you able to stay open and curious and have discourse with it - be involved with it when it is within your vicinity, when it's within your migration patterns? Are you able to sit with it? Be with the people for whom that person who died, was important, engage with it?
Death is all around… No need to fake it.
It's an invitation for each and every one of us.
I invite you to start to look at your past. Look at your present and be ready in your future. To be more accepting and inviting of those kinds of experiences, because it will make you a better person. This activity matters - it will give you instruction as to what living needs, because it's only when they are looking at dying, that we know what living really is about.
Death is all around…. No need to fake it.
Thanks for listening.