Facing Death, Embracing LifeBy Emma Pearson
September 22, 2023
All photos my own, taken yesterday in the Drôme, France
25 October 2020
My beautiful friend Joan, one of the very very very few people who has (a) consistently been present, (b) more or less accessible, and (c) capable of sitting with and exploring whatever colour and shade of emotional energy has come up for me these past four, very long years, co-facilitates a personal development programme called “Facing Death, Embracing Life”.
I attended it barely a year after Mike died. I think it should be “required attendance” for anyone still breathing – along with parenting programmes for would-be parents. I learned quite a bit at the time, and I am sure I would learn even more as my own barriers and resistance with regards to death fade with each passing loss, each passing season, and each passing year.
Facing into our mortality is a core part of the training we do at La Maison de Tara as well as in Journey work. One of my most profound experiences while training to become a Journey Practitioner was staying wholly present in the “worst possible scenario” of my final days, hours, moments. To imagine one’s “least preferred death” is a scary thing to do. It makes me hold my breath even now as I imagine it, many years, and all of these losses later.
I am not so glib as to say I have fully faced into my mortality. I don’t know how one does that without actually dying, or having a near death experience. I do know that I am more aware of my mortality and the preciousness and precariousness of life than many people are. I know too that I have long had an ability to rejoice in the joy and beauty of life, which, during Grief, has been a vital lifeline. And I know that I am constantly shifting in and out of grieving the loss of something and feeling grateful for whatever is left, or comes next. Being in a new relationship is a constant reminder of the loss of Mike and the gratitude of a new love. Having conversations with Ben and Megan is a constant reminder of the loss of Julia and my gratitude that I still have them in this moment.
This shifting in and out is all the more vivid in Autumn, when Summer is undeniably over. I have long said that I love Autumn. Even as a kid I used to say that. I remember once, after saying it as a fairly young child, my dad responding with, “But Autumn is all about decay and death, you know?” and having a bit of a conversation about it. At the time I think my love for Autumn was just about the colours and freshness, and I didn’t have much awareness of the deeper transformative cycle present in Nature.
In recent years I noticed that I struggled more with the onset of Autumn than I had previously admitted. I came to realise that I needed to grieve the end of Summer first, with its long days and endless invitations for living to the full. But once I had grieved those long days and warmer temperatures, and Autumn was truly in place (definitely by the time the clocks go back), it becomes, once again, one of my four favourite seasons.
I feel comfortable in the Autumn. There is true wisdom and genuine beauty in natural transformation, in cycles, in change. I feel able to settle into myself, with where I am at in my life. With more being and more allowing. It is what it is, after all.
It doesn’t mean that I don’t have dreams and wishes and hopes. I hope to have many more seasons ahead of me. I want, for many people as well as myself, to stay fit and healthy and enthusiastic about life for many more seasons, years, and even decades. To live fully until I no longer can.
I don’t want to die quite yet. Though if death came knocking on my door, I’d be more than satisfied with how I have lived my life.