One moment, even amidst plenty of background noise, I hear a footstep lagging behind my very existence by merely a fraction of a millisecond. It echoes around my head in distorted circles. I can hear a metaphorical presence breathing, slow, deep breaths all around me. Yes, I am imagining things. I know I’m imagining things; after all, it is I who is attempting to give a very elusive, abstract concept an anthropomorphic form. Here she is now, forming in my mind, a figure like a shadow with nothing but a void for a mouth. She is invisible, far out of mind enough to seem on a distant plane of existence, but quite real and eerie once you put your attention on her.
Her name is Death.
If there’s any essential law of life that is exceedingly overlooked and hard to understand, it is that we need to learn to trust it, that eerie presence we call death. Every bit of life that is about change and birth is also just as much about death, from the small, imperceptible details to the large whole of existence. Death exists in many forms: The death of past selves, past habits, past days, past friendships, past moments, past milliseconds, and, of course, the physical death of ourselves and people we care about. Birth and newness cannot exist without death. New things, feelings, experiences, mindsets, and ideas can only rise to the surface of manifestation once death has cleared the way for them. The next moment, at least for us humans in this current configuration of the universe, can’t really begin without the last one dying. Death is all around us; our identities are in a constant state of death and rebirth. Even our bodies are, as cells divide and replace themselves. The only thing beyond death is perhaps the existence of existence. We can trust this process.
Yet, for most of us, death in all its forms evokes feelings of anxiety and fear. I certainly know it does for me. That’s why most popular person-like depictions of death are crowned with dark hoods and rusty scythes. We characterize it as threatening, monstrous even. Death is always at our heels gobbling up what existed and how it existed; who we thought was us one minute ago is gone. We fear not existing. The selves we leave behind on a daily basis fear not existing. The dread of death underlies everything we do, everything we think, the very structure of our psychology, biology, and emotions. Thus, it is natural for us to not trust death.
However, trusting death as much as I can has given me a new perspective on life and loosened the viselike grip my human fear of death holds on my soul. I know this sounds really wacky and abstract. It is. Death has swallowed the past, and the future is only a figment of the imagination, so the only true thing is the present moment. Stick with it. It’s your best friend. The ghosts that death has taken from you can only control you if you let them; they are distant echoes, not close voices. Trust that what’s gone is gone and that you innately have everything you need alive with you in this exact moment to work as an agent of change to be or do whatever you wish.