Dying Before Death: On Dying Consciously

She related that the old man, then 100-years-old, had just come in from outdoors after he’d finishing chopping and stacking the wood for the winter. His face flush with life, he turned to his wife and, with eyes loving and gently determined, told her that he’s ready to go.

“I’ll stop eating now,” he said.

When she heard this, her eyes were not mournful or pleading. She did not think of the crockpot of food that would need to be frozen or spoil. Of the dark winter evenings in this Gothic northern clime. Of the whispering floorboards beneath her antique feet.

She thought, if that is the word, only of love.

And so, over the course of 21 days, she saw her husband glow into the earth and transpare into the sky. He was radiant–not brave; ready–not hollow; presence and this alone.

He was not, in fact, dying but, as the Sufis say, “dying before death.” Dying consciously to whatever residue of self remained. Realizing the transparent luminosity of the One Heart right here in and with and through all things.

* * *

This story our friend first read some 20 years prior, and now her husband, 81 and diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, is looking at her while they’re at the ER some 18 days ago and saying, “I’m done. Take me home.”

And she did; and they drove home. And soon he turns, with eyes loving and gently determined, to her and says, “I’ll stop eating now.” And she knows in the way only a wife of 49 years could.

It’s been 16 days since he began his fast. He’s still strong, she tells us, still very clear and cognizant and excited. He’s dying before death so that death will be as nothing but a blessed homecoming.

She thinks, if that is the word, only of love, for love is all she knows. Is all she is.

* * *

John, in Hebrew, means: “Yahweh has been gracious.” Godspeed, John.