Preparing to Live: A Meditation on Death

by Christine Jette

“Dying is a wild night and a new road.” Emily Dickinson

It has been said that we are not truly prepared to live until we are prepared to die. Life assumes a greater meaning and purpose when we fully appreciate the fact we are going to die. Our death is real and will be marked by a specific day on the calendar. All the days leading up to that one assume a special significance. Time passes so quickly. 

It is hard, if not impossible, to comprehend the end of our existence as we know it. To the extent that we can, it helps us to appreciate life and living all the more. A life review can help us make peace with our lives as we have lived them. Once we make peace with our lives—yes, I've made mistakes, but I've done as well as I can—then we are able to make changes in our lives. It is also helpful to understand how our attitudes towards death and loss shape our significant relationships.

The purpose of this meditation is to become aware of your own mortality and the mortality of those you love. Loss is part of the human story, after all, and sooner or later we will all face it. When you are able to accept your own death, and the deaths of your loved ones, as inevitable, you gain a broader perspective of your life direction and the choices you are now making. Priorities become clearer and change is easier to make. 

The death meditation will not ease the pain of loss. Grief is an expression of your love for the one who has died. The meditation will, however, assist you in acknowledging death as a part of life. As you do this, you prepare to make the most of the time you have left. You prepare to live. 
The Death card of tarot, No. 13, traditionally means transformation, rebirth, letting go and permanent change. It rarely signifies physical death, but for the purposes of this meditation, that is exactly what it means: coming to terms with your own mortality. Find a quiet space. Play gentle music if this comforts you. Use the Death card as a focal point for the meditation. Sit comfortably and prop the card up in front of you. Allow the edges of the card to soften. It may also help to look at a picture of yourself, or your loved one, as you meditate. Concentrate on slow deep breathing as you relax and let go. 

Continue to breathe deeply as you contemplate the questions. Allow thoughts to come and go, as they will. Images may appear in your mind's eye. Record your responses in a journal or on tape for later review. Think about your own death as you gaze at the Death card or meditate. 
To get you started, answer the following questions: What does dying mean to you? Are you afraid to die? How long do you expect to live? What do you most want to accomplish with your life? What is the one thing you wish you could do before you die that you have not yet done? If you believe in life after death, what do you want the keeper of the gate to say to you when you get to the other side? 

Pretend you are writing your own obituary. Let your whole life pass before you. How do you want to be remembered? What are your accomplishments? What gives your life real meaning and purpose? Do you have regrets? What are they? Who are the most important people in your life? What will your loved ones say about you at your funeral? What do you want them to say?
What has been the most significant death in your own life? Describe your life before and after the death of your loved one. How has the death of your loved one changed you? If you have not yet experienced the death of a close friend or loved one, anticipate how you would feel if a significant person in your life dies tomorrow. What do you dread or fear most about this death? How would you behave differently today if you knew the person you most loved were to die tomorrow? What would you say to him or her? Imagine what he or she might say back to you. 

The questions in the above paragraph will also help heal unresolved hurts and misunderstandings if you are mourning the loss of a loved one. As you look at a picture of your deceased loved one, imagine a conversation between you and the one for whom you grieve: What would you say? What would he or she say in return?

Would you want that person to be without flaws? Such a person would bear little resemblance to the one you love. No more than that person would want perfection from you. You wouldn't be recognizable, either. Love makes all kinds of allowances—and keeps on loving. 

When we prepare to live with the full knowledge that we will die, we stop taking life and the people we love for granted. Our own lives, and our significant relationships, become authentic. Review your responses to the death meditation at a later date. Has anything changed? 

All articles remain the property of their respective authors. Tarot Reflections is published by the American Tarot Association - Copyright (C) 2007 

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