A few months before my 41-year-old friend Claudine died, leaving behind two small boys and a husband, we attended a Yoga for Cancer workshop together. She had advanced stage cancer and I was pregnant.
Our seemingly opposite points in life didn't seem so opposite at the time. More like two sides of a coin; the beginning of a life and the end of a life.
Even though I knew she would pass, nothing ever prepares me for the finality of death. Its tragedy and absoluteness drown out everything else for a long time. It always strikes a tender, heart-wrenching chord because it is an inevitable part of my life; of each of our lives. It is the other side of our coin; and whether it happens to our spouse or a stranger, it always hits a little too close to home.
It never sits right with me that after grief charges in unannounced, ripping out our hearts and handing them to us in pieces, we then try to hide the the blood and guts under a black suit and tie and look to our chosen brand of religion or belief system to change the raw, wild, fearful thing that is death into something packagable, something palatable.
Belief systems don't change death. What they can change is life. They change how we live it and how we love it. They allow us to embrace it or to escape it. They deepen our connection with humanity or they cut it off at the source.
As someone who has held both death and life in my arms and watched the breath exit and enter a human body for the first and last time, I can tell you it's a doorway. A doorway that invites us to step deeper into this life with hearts broken wide open.
The first time that door opened I ran and hid. The second time that door opened I walked through it, full of fear and voice shaking but determined to not take another breath of this brief, fragile life for granted.