“Since death is certain, and time of death is uncertain; what is important?” Pema Chodron, The Way of the Bodhisattva.
My mind is filled with the words of others today. My own thoughts don’t come in proper sequence. Some lead to blank walls. Some lead to a gerbil wheel of questions that I can’t seem to answer.
Death has raised its ever-present issues once again: the shock, the incomprehensibility, and the utter finality of it. With it come the inevitable questioning of how I live my life.
What is most important in my life? How do I decide? I don’t see Pema’s words as another instruction to live in the moment. It’s more a question of priorities, isn’t it? Which means that there is a constant ebb and flow swirl of important, urgent and desirable.
Family and friends will always be at the top of my list in life. Yet I yearn for other things. And so I change priorities. I retreat. I travel. And I expect those I love to be well and happy while I am gone. I want to come back to life as it was when I left it.
Now I am miles away from my family. Each time I leave I’m aware of the possibility of tragedy, although it never seems real. It is an eventuality, which I examine and tuck away in that dark corner holding all the doubts and fears that could keep me from living my life.
Last month when I left, it was important to me to make this trip. Now it is important to me to get home.
As my husband and my son say, “There is nothing anyone can do here.” And it’s true. But I want to be there.
My questions are more universal than specific. Is travel really important? Am I frittering away my uncertain amount of time? Should I stay close to family and friends in body and in spirit? Be more available in case some unforeseen joy or sorrow should be in the offing?
The answer may be acceptance. Acceptance that things do happen and will happen. Acceptance that sometimes I can’t be there for someone I love. Acceptance that I will be unhappy with some of my decisions. Acceptance that life goes on. And then it ends.
Or will I ever accept whatever “is” in life, including death?
Maybe I don’t really “get” that death is certain. After all these years and all of these losses, I’m still in denial. I want it to go away.
And I don’t always know what is most important.