Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

There is a lyric on Leonard Cohen’s “!0 New Songs” CD repeated over and over again in one of the songs:  “May everyone live; may everyone die.” Yesterday I was involved in a conversation about the cycle of life and death —–and that we cannot have resurrection/life without death. We talked about how we go through certain developmental stages as we grow—in our minds, our emotions, and our spirituality.  We also talked about how the developmental stages seem to be reversed as we grow older. Two of us in the group discussed how our experience of almost dying brought us to experience God’s presence fully within and around us—-and that these experiences have helped us see life differently. It is as if accepting and surrendering to our inevitable death brings us a new mindfulness to experience our precious moments more fully. In addition, death,  while not sought,  is no longer feared as much as it once was when one realizes dying actually connects us to full immersion in God’s presence.

One of the members mentioned hearing  a comment when he was in India which went something like this: “When you great someone the only alive part of the person you are greeting is the gleam in their eyes—-everything else is already in the process of dying.”  I had to admit the truth in that—-our cells age and die repeatedly. However, our body is also making new cells to replace them.  So, again, I was confronted with the concept of life being a continuous cycle of life and death. When I stop and think about it, I realize both life and death constantly surround me and they are both part of the same continuum—–if they are not actually different expressions of the same thing.  When I first heard Mr. Cohen’s lyric, I thought of wanting the gift of life for all and how, when I am honest, there are, as a nurse,  times when I welcome death as the end to someone’s suffering— I view death as the ultimate cure or healing in those instances.

Oddly enough, or perhaps not, when I came home yesterday afternoon I began to obsessively crochet mandalas—-beautiful and intricate concentric circles of bright vivid colors unfolding in different patterns. It wasn’t until I came home from church this morning and looked up the meaning of the word mandala that I found out it is a spiritual representation of unity, wholeness, and completeness. I had always known mandalas were sometimes used as an aid to  meditation, but now I realize they are  much, much more than just an attractive tool. For me, today, they represent the cycle of life and death that is in all of creation—-so connected that one cannot exist without the other. In this sacred circle I see God’s promise that aging is actually a reverse “developmental  cycle” leading to our “birthing” —–a birthing back to God where our sacred circle begins and ends—-perhaps repeatedly. I hope all of this made sense. And now, I am going to return to crocheting mandalas. May God bless and keep you.