12. Death; a Messenger of Joy.
So I’m lying on my bed in the warm summer sun, feeling blissed out by the music of Adele or Seals and Crofts, or maybe it was the Killers, and I’m cruising on the after-effects of my wonderful new painkiller, when suddenly the door busts open and one of the caregivers strides up to my bed and urgently insists that I close the curtains. But I’m loving this warm embracing sun. And I don’t want to shut it out. And why on earth does she care anyway?
But she’s so determined about it that she’s getting ready to lean right across me and close them herself. So I look out of the window for some clue as to what she’s trying to achieve when I realise that there’s a trolley out there at the Rest Home entrance, and there’s the unmistakable figure of a person lying under a blanket.
“The body?” I gesture with a nod to the trolley. Dumbly she nods her own head and looks embarrassed and at a loss for a response.
“It’s ok,” I reassure her. “I’m fine with dead bodies.”
I repeat this several times ‘cos she doesn’t seem to be taking it in. And fine I am. I’ve seen several dead bodies in my time, and been estimated by various G.P.’s to be close to death myself on five occasions. Besides, I’ve realised by now that I just don’t think like most of the people around me do.
When I first arrived here at what was to be my new home, filled with the elderly and infirm, I figured that dying must be pretty high on their radar. I guessed that since it had to be a rather routine kind of event, people would be pretty blasé about the whole thing. How wrong I was. Despite most of this elderly generation being Christian and presumably thus being assured of a life after death, the reality turned out to be that even mentioning death around here had the effect of admitting to being a serial killer.
As for me, I’m a Baha’i. ‘Abdu’l-Baha sums up my own attitude by describing a person’s death in these words;
‘I have been freed from a small and gloomy cage and, like the birds of the meadows, have soared to the divine world—a world which is spacious, illumined, and ever gay and jubilant.’
Sounds good to me. Death is a pretty well accepted event in my family. One of my children has even written a book on related subjects. And our much admired atheist member is so ‘over’ the number of false alarms we’ve had over the years that he seems pretty relaxed about it too, although being a doctor must enlarge his attitudes.
So we’ve bought the plot, chosen the venue, agreed on the nature of any organ donation, outlined the programme and enlisted the future help of various friends to wash/wrap/ sing/recite/serve and the numerous other tasks that will be involved. (Hope I didn’t scare you there with too much information). It’s almost an anticlimax now that I seem to be making yet another kind of albeit rocky recovery, but M.S. is like that. One day you feel at death’s door and next month you’ve started writing another article.
When I find myself talking with someone who’s a life-after-death sceptic, I often encourage them to watch the recently passed Baha'i Renee Pasarow's You Tube videos. Or the excellent talk by real-life TV star Baha’i Justin Baldoni. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRQ9sYdh_d0) In fact I was so impressed by the reassuring nature of his approach that I’ve gone to the extent of asking in my will for all my grandchildren over 10 years of age to watch his show, because it just makes so much sense. You should watch it too.
Death proffereth unto every confident believer the cup that is life indeed. It bestoweth joy, and is the bearer of gladness. It conferreth the gift of everlasting life.
Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 345
"O SON OF THE SUPREME!
I have made death a messenger of joy to thee. Wherefore dost thou grieve? I made the light to shed on thee its splendor. Why dost thou veil thyself therefrom?"
"Whither can a lover go but to the land of his beloved? and what seeker findeth rest away from his heart's desire? To the true lover reunion is life, and separation is death. His breast is void of patience and his heart hath no peace. A myriad lives he would forsake to hasten to the abode of his beloved". ---Bahá’u’lláh: Persian Hidden Words, # 4
"O CHILDREN OF NEGLIGENCE! Set not your affections on mortal sovereignty and rejoice not therein. Ye are even as the unwary bird that with full confidence warbleth upon the bough; till of a sudden the fowler Death throws it upon the dust, and the melody, the form and the color are gone, leaving not a trace. Wherefore take heed, O bondslaves of desire!" ---Bahá’u’lláh: Persian Hidden Words, #75