Death recently walked past me with quiet steps. He did not come very near, but I could sense the cool breath of air that followed him.
Two people died in different corners of the world: One was a grown-up child of a very dear friend of mine, and the other was a professional who had regularly taken care of my health for many years. I did not know these two people so well, but particularly the sorrow of my friend who lost her child has deeply touched me.
These two events have made me to remember the passing of my old mother, and I thought I’d like to share with you the last moments that I spent with her.
My mother died twelve years ago. It was a cold winter night in the North, and she was already in the hospital, unconscious. As the night progressed, her breathing got heavier and heavier, and the pauses between each breath got longer. Then came again one arduous breath and a long pause after it. For a moment I sat and waited – and waited. There never came another breath. She had left.
The peace that settled into that sterile and quiet hospital room was indescribable. All the agony was gone. Everything was so quiet and still that I could almost touch the silence of the moment. There was nothing, absolutely nothing frightening about death.
I have never experienced such a beautiful and deep peace.
I got up from my chair and walked to the window. The landscape that opened in front of me was covered with pristine, white snow. The little town in the North was sleeping.
Living in the physical reality
Why have I chosen this slightly dark topic to write about?
One reason is obvious: This is my way to say goodbye to the two friends who are no longer here. They have been in my mind. I’ve been thinking of them, their lives and families.
Another reason is that I’ve also been contemplating, on a more general level, our life in physical reality.
I think we don’t give our humble human body the respect, love and care that it deserves. Yes, we do polish it and beautify it, and try to feed it with all kinds of healthy food, and we exercise to make it stronger – but it seems to me that unconsciously we still consider the body as a kind of necessary evil, something that we drag along, because there is no choice.
It is the head that we consider the centre of our life. The head governs everything below it. The head is, so to speak, the rider, and the body is the horse – that has to be thrashed every now and then for better performance.
Life without a body?
Let’s explore for a moment what living in the body means.
Without the bodies of my parents I would not exist. There would not be that specific “entity” that my parents named “Maarit” – that entity of body and mind, and that something special that we call consciousness that can observe even the thought processes of Maarit’s brain.
Without the body I would not have the brain.
Without the brain I would not be able to write this blog.
Without the senses I could not tell you what I have seen, heard, tasted, touched and smelled.
Without my fingers that now tap the keyboard I would not be able to pass on my ideas and thoughts to you.
And if it were not your physical eyes that see these marks on the screen and your brain that processes the information, we would not be able to communicate like this, mind to mind.
We are all this and so much more!
It is not only my thoughts that matter.
I am not only these words that I write.
It is not the weight and height of my body, or the color of my skin, or the shape of my eyes that make me who I am.
It is not only my personal history that created me.
It is not only the culture that produced me.
I am much more, just as you are so much more.
But it is absolutely sure, that just now – though I can’t promise you for how long – I exist in this body, in this world, in this country and in this house, and I’m happy for my body, because it supports me while I sit on the couch. I celebrate my body, because I can still feel in my mouth the taste of an apple that I just ate; because my eyes can see the clouds moving in the afternoon sky; because I can hear the dog parking in the neighbour’s apartment; and because the fragrance of coffee is spreading into my nose from the kitchen.
And if you were sitting in front of me, my dear reader, you could sense that I exist, and that you exist, not only in the artificial world of the Internet, as words and images on the screen, but in flesh and blood, in a human body that carries in it all the memories and experiences, all the capacities and possibilities.
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To celebrate all the precious people who have been or still are present in my life, or who have already left or disappeared for various reasons, I want to finish this post by playing a song by Violeta Parra: Gracias A La Vida (Thanks to Life), performed by Mercedes Sosa. Both artists have left us but their music lives. You can find the English translation of the lyrics here.