Friday, August 7, 2009

Practicing Death

We do not know where death awaits us; so let us wait for it everywhere. To parctice death is to practice freedom. A man who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave. Michel De Montaigne.

I can't seem to get this quote out of my mind since I read it. I sat down awhile ago in my favorite chair and when I did the leaves of the red maple shimmered in the sun as they moved back and forth in the breeze. Two yellow finches flew by in my line of vision. When I got up to take my coffee cup to the kitchen ten, tall 'from the same plant' rocket ligularia commanded me to look. And round about them were the black-eyed susans, the astilbe, the bergemot and the lilies all vieing for my attention. How does one practice death in settings like this? I suspect it has to do with focus.

I have a grandson who practices and practices and practices piano or anything that has to do with music. He can give me birthdates and deathdates of all the great composers. He informed me in our 'last might' conversation that he will be a music professor. Will he? I don't know. I do know he is focused enough that at 16 he gave up a week's vacation at the beach in order to practice and study for a music exam tomorrow.

Why don't we see the practicing of death in the same light? Perhaps it is because we see death as a painful thing, a depressing thing, a scary thing. Is it because we really don't believe what we say we believe? When I sat in my chair and watched the shimmering leaves the thought came to me; "How do I practice death right here, right now?" And I couldn't help but think that it would be quite like stepping from a beatiful flowered filled verandah over the threshold into an even more beautiful house. This afternoon I go to the Nursing Home where every room is filled with someone waiting to die. I have never thought of it 'til now but I believe those rooms that are cheery, with folks in them who are at peace, are the rooms that are home to some sweet soul who, though they probably would never couch how they feel in these words, have spent time practicing death.

So I go back to the job at hand - picking out all the stitches that went into joining eighy-four small triangles in the wrong way. And while I do it I will try a little 'practicing death.' It seems to me that is what someone somewhere called 'where the rubber meets the road.'