A 73 -year-old American in Madrid tells it like it is.
My friend, author Marsha Scarbrough, wrote this article, which I am publishing with her permission:
As I boot up my computer this morning, the Internet tells me that Coronavirus has taken more than 7,000 lives in Spain. I’m in my 16th day of lockdown in Madrid, the city hardest hit in the country. Although I feel fine, my thoughts turn toward death.
I think, “today is a good day to die.”
In my studies with Native American medicine teachers, this phrase was a touchstone offered to help us keep life in balance. Often before a sweatlodge ceremony, someone who was about to enter the lodge for the first time would be gripped by fear and blurt out, “I’m afraid I’m going to die!” The calm, measured answer from the facilitator was always, “You are going to die. I guarantee it. I hope it won’t be today.”
We are all going to die. There are no survivors on this planet. Death is as natural as breathing. Now, take a breath and release it out into the universe. What a blessing that you are alive in this minute.
In some Native American cultures, every person had a “death song.” This was a song or poem that you wrote as a young person and embellished over the course of your life. It was to be sung at the moment just before your death so these would be the last words on your lips, the last vibration of your breath. What is the last blessing, the final inspiration that you want to leave behind? Today is a good day to write your death song.
I am 73 years old, so for me (and for all the boomers), death is nearby. I have no quarrel with her. I experience her as a friend waiting to take my hand and help me get off the planet when I have made all the contributions I am able to make and life is no longer enjoyable in this body.
The truth is that there are too many people. We can see from the improved air and water quality during this global pandemic shutdown that Planet Earth needs a break from the relentless demands of almost eight billion people. Maybe coronavirus is simply offering an invitation for those who are ready to make a graceful exit.
I suggest that instead of using precious resources and putting brave healthcare workers in danger to fight for our lives, those of us in the high-risk category could put our houses in order, say everything we need to say to our loved ones, accomplish the tasks that we have left undone, and accept the invitation if the virus offers it to us. Perhaps the most eco-friendly contribution that we can make at this point in our lives is to sing our death song.
Here’s mine: What I leave here on earth is love that surrounds you always. May my memory sing you and dance you and fill you with joy. May the energy I release now enrich the endless cycles of life. Aho!
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Marsha Scarbrough is a freelance journalist and the author of the award-winning memoirs Medicine Dance and Honey in the River, published by Changemakers Books. She currently lives in Madrid, Spain, and serves as the Spain Correspondent for International Living magazine.