Saturday, July 14, 2007

Death as a catalyst for change

The thirteenth card of the major arcana of the Tarot signifies change, rebirth, renewal, transformation. In its reversed form, it means literal death and can signify a loss, destruction, or failure. Regardless of its positive or negative influence in your reading or on your life, this card means an end of things as you know them; an inevitable and unavoidable change in your life.

I've experienced life-changing death; my husband of two years committed suicide in our bedroom. Most people's automatic reaction to hearing this is negative. Death, especially that resulting from a suicide, has very negative connotations. But the event itself is neither negative nor positive. It's our personal reaction to the events which are negative or positive.

Death can be a great catalyst for change if one chooses to use it as such. My husband's death nearly drove me crazy. I dreamed of him nightly, and always he was ruined and bloody and running from me. During waking hours I could think of nothing else but the vision of him holding the gun to his head. The images and thoughts that plagued me would not fade; I have them seven years later.

It is only in the conscious choice of using his death as a catalyst for change that I feel less a slave to those images. I've chosen to view his death not only as the end of his life, but as the beginning of a new path for my own life. Every choice I make is affected by that suicide; every decision is run against the filter of that death. Truly, my entire being was changed in the minutes and days and months after Colin pulled the trigger that ended his life.

I have striven to find opportunities that were not available for me before. One thing that I do much more freely now than when he was alive is express my faith. I no longer feel it necessary to put my religion on a shelf out of sight. When we were first married I was perfectly willing to forgo practicing my religion because of his squeamishness about it. Now, I would never allow a man to influence my faith in that manner. After Colin's death I felt I needed my faith more than ever. What a way to exercise my new freedom. How ironic is that?

All the things that I either couldn't do, or things I subconsciously held myself back from doing, I did after he died. I grasped the opportunity to do things my own way, since I didn't have him there to help me make decisions. Every new choice I made, every new decision made alone, were constant reminders of what I no longer had. I felt a profound sense of emptiness and loneliness; at the same time, I felt as though I was taking the lead in my own life. I was making decisions, and changes, and following through on commitments, all on my own. I didn't simply exist as a widowed woman, but embraced my chance to remain alive and live my life according to what I wanted and did not want.

I've always felt that the religion of my child-hood left many important questions unanswered. What happens after we die? Our souls go to heaven to be with God. Why does God need our souls? It's not up to us to question or understand the motivation of God. Why not? Because we are not capable of understanding God. His mind is too vast, his being too complex. This is not acceptable for me, and it never has been. Following a pagan path offers me no more answers than previous paths. The difference for me is that I'm far more comfortable with the questions I have.

Death is a subject that is dealt with so strangely in the West. I don't feel that we're encouraged to explore our feelings towards death and dying; we're taught to shun death, to avoid speaking about it. We don't embrace death and we certainly don't talk about it. We teach our children that all things die but we don't encourage them to express their feelings about dead things. Adults often prevent children from attending funerals of departed loved ones out of an effort to protect them from that death. We live our lives entirely in an unconscious effort to avoid death, far beyond the point when it is practical to do so.

Often in American society we simply see death as another opponent. We feel only our own loss and sadness and don't fully recognize death for what it is: a part of the wheel of life and possibly a powerful catalyst for change.


Aerolin said...

Often in American society we simply see death as another opponent...

Powerful. I completely agree. Makes me think (surprise) one of the last episodes of Buffy when Anya is explaining her observations of human nature and death: they all know it's coming and yet each one of them is surprised when it happens to them...

Lovely post!

Jade said...

Thanks, Aerolin! I remember that episode, and back when it aired I was starting to formulate my concept of death and what it means for us. The thoughts for this post (which started life as a journal entry of mine after Colin died) have been in my head for a long time without any coherent form taking shape.

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