The outpouring of support, love and understanding I received after publishing my blog, Gifts Of Grief (https://www.carolynmahboubi.com/blog/the-gifts-of-grief) about the passing away of my best friend, Ahmed, has brought me to tears on a regular basis. I did not know that so many people would relate to my unexpected and deeply nuanced experience of grief.
As I had anticipated, grief continues to feel like an emotion with a long tail – one that may never entirely leave my world.
And that’s OK.
That’s OK because at the same time that grief has cast the thinnest and seemingly permanent filter of grey on the landscape of my life, it has, paradoxically, brought so much else that was in the background into stark and brilliant relief.
Since my teenage years, I’ve been deeply interested in spirituality and exploring my relationship to a force that is unseen and larger than myself. I have devoted years, even decades, to practicing religious disciplines of Buddhism, Kabbalah, Taoism, not to mention studying with more spiritual teachers than I can count on two hands. The sum effect of this work which continues even now, is my profound and unshakeable belief in a transcendent force (call it what you like) that I am a part of. One of the many benefits of this belief is that over time I have lost my fear of death.
Or so I thought.
As I shared in the previous blog, I’ve received so many invaluable gifts as a result of this unasked and unwished for emotion of grief. But one surprising gift that is revealing itself slowly but surely every day more, is fear of my own death. I thought fear of death was something I had resolved through my belief that fundamentally we never die.
We need not go further than the First Law of Thermodynamics to understand that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; energy can only be transferred or changed from one form to another. I comforted myself with the thought that death – mine or other’s – painful as it is, does not mean that we are gone.
But losing someone who was so alive and foundational in my world, has me reconsidering this belief..
With the greatest respect for everything that is spiritual, transcendent and divine, I now feel that when we die, we are gone from this particular, unique, and beautifully material existence. Ahmed is gone from my life and he took with him the non stop laughter, excellent adventures and deep conversations that could only take place if he was physically here. I’ve never been as awake and conscious of all the things around me as I am becoming everyday more since Ahmed’s death. I recognize a fear in myself – not so much of death but of missing out on life.
It’s like I suddenly am riddled with the worst case of FOMO known to man!
I have devoted decades of my life to becoming more transcendent and less material. And in this moment, I find myself continuously seduced and distracted by all the earthly things, regardless of how mundane they may be. I have a new appreciation for, and admittedly, a palpable fear of losing those things that are available to me only as far as I inhabit a body.
On the outside nothing has changed, but on the inside, everything is different for me.
Walking on the beach, I dig my toes into the warm granular sand just a bit deeper. When my child speaks to me, I listen with more curiosity and presence. Before each meal, I slow down to a moment of prayerful appreciation (a practice I admired in others but was not motivated to apply in my own life). When my clients speak, I open my heart even more than before and receive them with a kind of love that surpasses my professional duties. When someone shares a joke, I laugh with appreciation, even if I don’t fully understand the joke.
I’m in a hurry to feel, see, taste, hear, and touch as much as I can before my time is up.
In the words of Avici’s song The Nights, which is a wildly popular meme on Tik Tok at the moment, “One day you’ll leave this world behind…So live a life you will remember.”
How aware are you of the gifts that you are only able to enjoy in your physical body? Gifts that death will bring an end to regardless of how you conceive of what comes after?
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