Had a dream a friend and I were mugged. I ran, and as I did I heard a shot ring out behind me. I woke up terrified. My heart was racing in the darkness of by bedroom. Death had visited my dreams again.
Instead of turning away, I’ve learned to “lean in” towards death (eat your heart out, Sheryl Sandberg!) when I encounter it in my fears and dreams. What was I afraid of in this dream? What made death so frightening? If I’d been given one last wish, what would it be?
I replayed the scene in my mind, only this time when the chrome .45 came out of the bag, I didn’t run. I faced the gunman. And I paused the scene.
“Ok, here I am. Now what is it I’m so afraid of? What do I wish I’d done in life that I’m so afraid of losing now?”
And it hit me: I wanted to say “I love you” to life. All of it. For the first and last time.
Like The Way of Taoism, I wanted to acknowledge Life, even the horror of my own pending death. I see in the analysis of my dream that what makes me so afraid of Death is that I’m afraid I’ll have missed the chance to say, “I love you,” to all that Is.
We spend so much of our lives, maybe all our lives, doing exactly what the 3rd Chinese Patriarch of Zen warned us not to do: Live with preferences. Choosing between Life and Life. Calling out and celebrating the parts of life we prefer, ignoring the parts we don’t. The small annoyances and the major problems, the simple pleasures and the incredible ecstasies…every bit of our lives are made up of these moments, and if we took out even the smallest scene, it wouldn’t be our lives!
My fear of death stems from the buried desire to take one long, full look at Life in all its beauty and ugliness, to stop making those kinds of distinctions, and simply let it Be and Love It for what it is.