I am very grateful to all of you who wished me a happy birthday last week. It warms my heart to be recognized and honoured by so many. I want you to know I’m enjoying sex, love, intimacy and service at the age of 71.
A birthday is a good time to look back and look ahead. It’s the ahead part I’d like to talk about. I know I look younger than my years. My dad was pretty young looking as he aged. Longevity runs in my family so I can look forward to several more years of life.
Still, I am much closer to the end of life than the beginning. I am not 71 years young, as some folks suggested, and I choose not to spend each birthday repeating the tired Jack Benny joke. In the scheme of things 71 is old. I appreciate the person who said on Facebook, “I’m glad you’re still walking on this planet.” It seemed a sincere sentiment that embraced my age instead of denying it. And yes, I’m glad too.
My choice is to prepare for death rather than deny it, so I can embrace it when it comes.
I fear death, (not nearly as much when I was young), but denial is not the tool with which I choose to engage it. I’d rather say hello to fear and give it whatever space it needs.
So as I look to the future, permit me to use this birthday message to share my beliefs about my death. Beliefs about death are largely religious so I think it only polite to ask permission, and to share them as personal beliefs, not necessarily yours.
I will die, not to live again. I have not lived before and I’m not coming back. I’m not going to heaven or to some limbo holding pattern like a Dreamliner in a crowded sky looking for a slot to land.
I have a soul, but what I call “soul” is quite different from other definitions. At the very core of every one of my cells dwells the DNA that brought me here, the blueprint that is on the one hand practically identical to yours, and on the other identifies me as unique on this crowded planet of nine billion. There is nothing ethereal or supernatural about this seeming contradiction and yet to me it is a far more mysterious miracle than any our collective imagination has ever produced. It seems to me the more we learn about ourselves and the natural universe, the more amazing it all becomes. Old beliefs are continually left in the dust by more miraculous discoveries that open our eyes daily to the beauty of the universe.
When a book is burned the story lives on in another. My DNA will disintegrate with me, but yours will remain to multiply. DNA, my soul, is the glue that unites me with all life; on the one hand uniquely me and on the other universal. It feels sometimes that my purpose here is to be a vessel, a harbour, and to serve DNA in the same way that other folks serve their God.
Physically, what I’m made of was born in the stars, and to the stars my atoms will return. Nothing is lost except this fragile ego called ‘Eric’ whose job it is to carry this soul for the short time I’m on this planet.
So to revisit the fear of death, I see it is but an attachment to my ego, to the conscious me. I am not a student of Buddhism but I think my foundation in scientific skepticism has brought me to the same conclusion. I’m ever surprised when I hear people speak of releasing themselves from attachment and still hold on to reincarnation which seem like nothing more than ways to hold on to the personal ‘me’.
So I have a birthday request. When I’m ready to die please speak of my death, not transition, not passing, not…
When I’m ready to kick the bucket,
Cash in my chips, breathe my last,
When I’m ready to take the long sleep,
Go upstairs, when I’m fading fast,
When I’m ready to meet my maker,
Give up the ghost, take the final ride,
Go the way of all flesh,
swelling tide, Jordan
When it’s Davey Jones’ Locker,
Bite the big one, passing on,
When I’m ready to transition,
Rest eternal, sing my swan song,
In other words to die,
When I’m ready to be dead
Don’t pamper me or euphemise
Or confuse my aching head.
Let me have this last experience
Unsullied by a lie.
I can live life to the fullest
When I know I’m going to die.