There is much in the news of late about the decline in health of Nelson Mandela. He is now in intensive care after many months of battling a lung infection. What may not be so evidently written is how the world will or won't deal with his impending death. I said it, yes, Nelson Mandela will die, if not immediately, most certainly within the next few months or years.
Previously, I wrote a blog about Mandela as he relates to the hero's journey, so today's post won't be a repetition of that, but it does lie along a similar theme.
Today's post is about attachments.
How we do or do not attach, and in which particular way we attach to each other, is tantamount to how we detach when people are no longer in our lives. This is not only about death, it can be about the death of a relationship, job or pet. But considering that this is my blog and I blog about death and dying, life and living, well...I'll just focus on that for now. And, suffice it to say, there are many ways to interpret death but here I am writing of corporeal death, a permanent non-living state.
Over the course of my life I have watched how I and my family members have and have not dealt with the many deaths that have occurred. Attachment Theorists suggest that in order to form secure bonds with one another we must attach well, and that it's best if it happens right from birth. When this attachment is insecure then people are less likely to form lasting relationships.
Nelson Mandela's journey through his lifelong struggles with apartheid, imprisonment, his eventual release and his triumph to become one of the greatest leaders of all time, has given humanity many reasons to attach firmly to him. We have metaphorically walked alongside him, trusting in his strength and courage to act bravely in defiance of his obstacles.
But there is something that humanity has not yet done. We have not yet prepared ourselves for his death. An ABC News Online article states that people are hopeful of his speedy recovery but...
What very few of us in Western society seem to be taught is about healthy detachment. Yes, attach, it is incredibly vital to our survival. Babies who are not picked up and held in the warmth of their mothers will often die. We need to attach securely with each other and it feels great when done well. But there is a fear of the letting go that often stunts how deeply we bond with each other.
Buddhist philosophy teaches of impermanence, that everything changes and living beings will die to be reincarnated in another life form until enlightenment is achieved. But for the average Westerner without a strong religious or spiritual belief, what are they left with when the time comes to let go and let death happen?
It is just as valuable to learn that we must love deeply with the knowledge that we will one day have to let go. All living beings must die, but that doesn't mean we can't be prepared for it right from the start. It is a heart wrenching thought for a parent to imagine their child dying. I can accept the death of any one of my closest family members but the death of my son would rock me to the core...and then over time I imagine I would let him go.
It is vital to love deeply and just as vital that we learn to let go.
When my son was little we would create these elaborate beautifully crafted sculptures in play dough. It would take us a very long time and we would love the work we created, but after our masterpiece was complete, I would ask him...'are you ready?'...and he would say...'yes, with a knowing smile on his face' and we would squish and mush our masterpiece until it was a solid blob of nothing. I felt such satisfaction in the letting go and my son used to giggle at my reaction.
I think knowing that the living beings (family, pets, friends) around me won't live forever makes me appreciate and love them all that much more. I recognise that life is precious and can be ended at any given time. In a heartbeat my friend B died of an aneurysm after hitting her head a couple of days beforehand. It can happen at anytime and I want those people around me to know they were loved and cherished. I want them to love me back and then let me go when that day comes, the day I die.
And so I ask you now...
Are you prepared for Nelson Mandela to die?
Are you prepared for your own death?
Have you loved deeply knowing that one day you will have to let go?
For another day, I am passionately yours,
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