‘Rich, I Think I’m Going To Die’

This passage is oh so very touching. Listen closely:

My mother was dying in early February, 1966, in a hospital in Boston. I was sitting at her bedside. By then I had been working on understanding my own consciousness for some years. She was sort of resting. I was in a kind of meditative mode, just being spacious and aware and noticing what was happening as the relatives and doctors and nurses came into the hospital room and said, “Gertrude, how are you doing?” I listened to the cheery tone of the nurse. I realized that my mother was surrounded by a conspiracy of denial. I watched people coming into the room, all the relatives and doctors and nurses saying she was looking better, that she was doing well, and then they would go out of the room and say she wouldn’t live out the week. I thought how bizarre it was that a human being going through one of the most profound transitions in her life was completely surrounded by deception. Can you hear the pain of that? One woman came in and said, “The doctor just told me there’s a new medication that we think will help.”

Nobody could be straight with her because everybody was too frightened–all of them, everybody, even the rabbi. Mother and I talked about it. At one point, when nobody else was in the room, she turned to me and said, “Rich?” I’d just been sitting there–no judgment, no nothing, just sitting–and we just met in that space.

She said, “Rich, I think I’m going to die.”

I said, “Yeah, I think so too.” (Ram Dass, Polishing the Mirror: How to Live from your Spiritual Heart, p. 86.)

While reading it, I almost cried. I can feel her pain, one that is surrounded by such interpersonal and institutional deception. Our death-phobic American culture insists that one is always doing better, that no one will ever die, and that, if one is quite ill, one must “keep fighting.” And then when that one is gone, he is forgotten as the rest of us keep on.

What’s worse that one’s tragic, ugly death is how it seeds terror in the hearts of those still alive. And what may be worse than that is that one doesn’t know that one needs to talk about that terror because one often doesn’t know that it’s there.

“Here today, gone tomorrow,” it’s said breezily…

It’s in this context, one that I trust you, dear reader, can readily recognize, that Ram Dass’s story summons forth our heart. And much more. Much, much more. It summons forth our need for courage, for resolve, and, above all, for the deepest, most searching curiosity.

“Curiosity above all?” Yes, we should care about discovering or rediscovering a cosmology that will help sentient beings die well, with grace, with lightness, with a peace redolent of saints and sages and saviors. We can’t simply focus on the process of dying; we need to reconsider–today, right now–the cosmology that will make peaceful death possible.

I rest in the nondual teaching, which states that we come from the Source, are temporary manifestations of the Source, and return to the Source. Accordingly, physical death is not outright disappearance but expansion into Boundlessness.