Liar, Liar, pants on fire: more death

Paris Montmarte cemetery

Ok, so I lied. I said I was going to give you all a break on the ghoulish 8th-house, deathy stuff, but it turns out I’m not ready yet.

See, other people keep contributing awesome stuff that gives me all kinds of new nuances and angles to think about, and I can’t think without writing (can’t stop won’t stop). The synchronicity, or maybe more accurately the circularity, of blogging about these topics while others are also thinking and writing about it–see this post from Deb Castellano and this one from Stacey–both on the same day!…well, it feels really magical actually. And reassuring. All the feels!

I mean there are so many feels that it’s really hard to process. It’s like being underwater and not knowing which way is up anymore, your lungs ache, scarily empty, and your arms are tired and helpless, and you desperately need to swim for the surface but you have no idea where that is. All you can do is stop struggling and let yourself float, and hope you make it back to air before you run out, though you know you might not. You are basically asking a panicked animal to make a calm, conscious, counterintuitive decision.

But then at the same time, there’s this bizarre beauty to the experience. Or, I don’t know, maybe I’m just a sicko, but I think Stacey hit the nail bang on the head when she says:

“This also forces me to notice that I . . . kind of like? . . . being around people who are processing grief. I worry that this is horribly morbid, and what the hell is wrong with me, but this is the great mystery and I think there’s something holy about the grieving process.”

Yes. That.

The Japanese (of course it would be the Japanese) have a name for that sense of mystery, holiness, and melancholy-with-a-soupçon-of-ennui: mono no aware 物の哀れ. A non-literal translation that captures the feeling might go something like, “Alas! Everything ends…” In this point of view, that intensifies the beauty and preciousness of life. We will always be longing to plumb the mysteries of existence, and we’ll die before we get there…but the longing itself adds savor and depth.

I wish I could say I just sit here and bask in the poignant autumnal glory of it all, but the truth is this brings out the bitch in me. There’s nothing romantic about this, dear readers. Caring for someone who’s dying involves such an abundance of bodily fluids and excreta and whining and tantrums and pain…and that’s just me. (Buh dum CHING!) Seriously though, death is not for the squeamish, lemme tell ya. There’s a reason I never became a nurse. It’s called “emptying bedpans” and “cleaning up vomit.” Of all the seven deadly sins, the one I struggle with most is Pride. It’s not that I’m arrogant, but rather that I have an inflated sense of my own dignity and cleanliness. The number one thing this gig has taught me is humility, and it’s a lesson that I have to learn the hard way, over and over.

(For my fellow astro-nerds, transiting Saturn is going through my 8th house (death) until November of this year, squaring my natal Saturn in the 6th (caregiving), and has just moved off my progressed Moon (feelings, mothers) in the 8th–and this is a balsamic moon, the last phase of the lunation cycle and the one associated with death. Meanwhile, until Spring 2017 transiting Pluto (god of death) is running back and forth over my progressed Sun (identity) as it goes from direct, to retrograde, to direct again. Jupiter (more! more! more!) is also in my 6th house of caregiving and service right now. Now all that death would sound totally badass if I were a goth kid, but Saturn is slopping a big steaming glob of middle-aged responsibility, filial duty, and life-evaluation on my plate.)

There are a lot of weird effects of getting this up-close-and-personal with death. For the past couple months I’ve been unable to do any magic. I want to, I’m just unable to muster up the energy and focus. And my gut says I need to let it be for now. On the other hand, a few days ago I saw a ghost for the first time since I was like three years old. In the interim, I have heard ghosts stomping around, had them temporarily steal my keys, seen them in my mind’s eye during hynogogic states, and felt them clairsentiently (is that a word?), but I haven’t seen them with my actual physical eyes. A few days ago I was walking my dog and saw an elderly lady in a pink chenille bathrobe walking up, only to find when I looked straight on that she wasn’t there, at least, not in a corporeal sense. This is a huge deal for me since it could mean the restoration of an ability I lost long ago.

Is it weird that I’m talking so much about this? I don’t want to bore you, but I feel like death, and the deeply personal experiences surrounding death, need to be brought into the light. Maybe it’s a sort of calling for me right now, and it’s part of the Shiva current that keeps popping up. This shit isn’t glamorous or exciting–least of all as it manifests in my life–but it’s real. I very much look forward to Deb’s forthcoming Books of the Dead blog series, which she predicts will be “one part research, two parts personal sharing, one part witchcraft and one part folklore/mythos.  What will bind all of this chaos together will be actual Books of the Dead.” See, because that’s what we need more of. It’s a kind of psychopompery (another word I made up). (Maybe I should have called this blog Psychopomp and Circumstance lolz.) I know I can’t do it justice by myself, but now there are more voices in the chorus, and as Stacey says, it’s like death is in the air right now. I hope that makes for one hell of a Halloween.

So I retract my promise of no more death talk, though don’t worry, I am going to mix things up a bit.

5 thoughts on “Liar, Liar, pants on fire: more death

  1. Run with it!

    Since your path has brought you to this point, perhaps the kindest thing you can do for yourself and others is to embrace it. Who knows but that your notes might be a comfort to someone facing a similar task years from now?

    And you’ll need ways to stay connected to the living world, so maybe writing will help with that?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m hoping it will be helpful to someone, somewhere, someday. I know that I would love to see more such writing. Good point about needing to stay connected to the living world, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s interesting to me that you say that death isn’t glamorous. Having been there for a lot of death, I completely agree. But I wonder, can it be? I know that’s sort of a weird thing to say but I wonder if there’s any way to reconcile the two together.

    I worry that writing about death will turn people off as well and then I sort of decided I didn’t care. ;p But honestly? I think people really want to know how other people are dealing with death/grief/dying on an emotional/spiritual level. I really resonated with what you said about science having taken over the dying/death process, because I think that’s where I am with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, that is a very good question. I do think some glamour could be brought back into the death and dying process. Yes. And maybe we’re just beginning to do that now.

      I think two things that would help to reconcile death and glamour are (1) if caring professions could get a little more respect. I mean I think there’s a lot of idealism around caring, but there is fuck-all when it comes to decent pay and social prestige (if you’ll pardon my French) and it’s not like young people are clamoring to get their degrees in caregiving. I don’t just mean the people who actually clean up poo and make coffins and so on, but all the things you do, as described in your post, that hold everything (and everyone) together while their world is falling apart. Also maybe it’s just my freaky morbid self but I think the idea of death midwives or soul midwives is rather glamourous. And (2) if we could get right with death so that it doesn’t lose ALL of its scariness and mystery and sadness (which are a source of real magical power), but just enough so that we can actually look it in the eye. I think an argument can be made that those Victorian hair wreaths made from dead people’s hair, and photos of dead people in their Sunday best, and proper Irish wakes, have a kind of glamour. Not to mention flaming Viking funeral ships.

      I also think deathy goddesses have a kind of glamour. Perhaps just because they are often war goddesses and/or sexy goddesses, and the warrior-princess image is pretty popular in society at large. Maybe it’s just a goth kid thing?

      Those are just my first thoughts. I want to ponder this some more.


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