Today’s Word from Sheila Weidendorf…

Dan was a drummer who marched to his own beat his whole life. He was a master of words, whether being socially glib or arguing a cause in the Model UN program when he was still in high school. He was a tireless advocate and activist for peace and justice. He was my oldest son’s best childhood friend who spent a LOT of time at my house, especially when things were difficult with his family. He was like my own son. He turned 35 this spring. A couple of weeks ago, Dan took his own life.

Now I hadn’t heard from Dan in a few years. Sadly, he suffered from serious drug addiction. In fact, my son had ended his relationship with Dan some 10 years ago when he realized he couldn’t save Dan from himself; my Jordan wasn’t willing to watch Dan self-destruct. Dan disappeared. I had heard he’d gotten clean at one point, but was never able to free himself fully. In the end, he chose death over a life of addiction.

Now we in the West do not have good language for death, or—in general—a healthy relationship with the full circle of life. When someone we love is in danger from a health predicament—be it addiction or a potentially fatal disease—we say they are in a battle. When they indeed pass on in the course of that predicament, we too often say they “lost their battle.”

Perhaps it’s our deeply-ingrained Western dualism that can only see death as opposing life. We see Death as the enemy, as something to be avoided. In our popular culture this is furthered by the shilling of a million “anti-aging” products, of glorifying youthfulness in adults while not really appreciating the young. (For example, how many times do our adult eyebrows raise over the word, “teenagers”?)

Yet, Death is a part of life as we know it here on Earth. Death is unavoidable at this stage of our biological and spiritual evolution. To take birth is a tacit acknowledgement that, at some point, we will leave this plane and rejoin The Great Mysterion beyond. For isn’t there a time for everything? The Book of Ecclesiastes tells us, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance…”

Yes, there IS a time to mourn and to grieve the loss of our loved ones! Dan’s death hit me hard. In general, I am at peace with death. Many, many, many, loved ones have died in my lifetime, including by suicide. I have been perilously close to Death’s door myself a couple of times.

Soul-to-soul, I respect anyone’s journey into the Great Beyond. Who am I to judge a soul’s eternal trajectory?

But of course, Dan was a young man. Dan was my son’s age; Dan was like a son to me for decades so my maternal sensibilities easily overtake my soul sensibilities! And anyway, is it not always tragic for a life to be cut short at a time we can all agree is “too soon?”

Ultimately, timing isn’t within our purview. When and why and how just might not be any of our business in oh, so many ways in this life. What IS our business is presence, is lovingkindness, is refraining from judgement, is accepting that we do not know or understand very much at all, is showing up each and every day, is living WHILE we’re alive and not meeting our final breaths with regrets and “if only” on our lips. What IS our business is recognizing God in each and EVERY person, respecting each and every journey, and being grateful for every opportunity to love.

I am very much saddened by Dan’s death, by whatever it was that made him feel his life was no longer worth living. I will always cherish the memories of the boy, the young man, that he was in my life. I will always love the soul that he is and I pray that his soul finally knows peace. May we ALL know peace in our hearts, minds, bodies and souls.

Here is a link to music I created the day I learned that Dan had left this world behind:

Sheila Weidendorf