Friday, 22 June 2012

The wisdom of a dead squirrel

I saw a dead squirrel on my way to the tube on Monday. It has not looked any healthier as the week has progressed, and after walking home in the rain yesterday the Husband noted, 'That squirrel's pretty much just mush now.'

People today, especially in the West, and particularly city dwellers like me, don't really do death. Occasional road-kill is the closest we get on an everyday basis. Any imminent death of elderly or terminally ill relatives or friends is sanitised, wired up, dehumanised, put out of sight and dealt with by medical professionals.

We're no better at coping with the idea of our own deaths. Even people who profess faith in something beyond this life worship youth, fear death, and find talk of it morbid at best. Which is odd, because death is life's only certainty.

I spent Wednesday morning at Trinity Hospice in Clapham, talking with the Michael Savage who leads Trinity's Spiritual Care work. He's a really lovely, wise and grounded man. I've had in the back on my mind for many years that I'd like to volunteer or work within the hospice movement in some capacity, to offer love and care for those going through the dying process, irrespective of their religious beliefs. To listen to folk, to pray with them if they'd like to, but Not to try and 'save' them on their death beds. Frankly I'm not sure if I'm made of strong enough stuff emotionally, but I want to give it a shot at some point in the next few years.

Why have I only done something about this niggle now? Partly because this summer I've had the time, but partly for the purely selfish reason of my own spiritual development.

I had a very inspiring conversation with a Buddhist teacher recently, who has pioneered a lot of contemplative end of life care within the US prison system. Many of his stories moved me but he said one thing that really struck me:

"We should all live with an ever present awareness of our own death."

So that's what I'm trying to do a bit more of, while being deeply thankful for the life I have right now. Some people hear reminders and encouragements from God on their spiritual journeys in dreams or visions as they go through life; but I'll take divine wisdom wherever I find it. Even in a squirrel.