Death and Writing

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This too shall pass. . .

Shadows of birds flying on the sidewalk; clumps of wildflowers spilling over the fence; cracking noise of a porch door swinging open—this too shall pass.

Drumming of raindrops against the cement floor; tamarind pods swinging from the tree; bent legs of dragonflies moments before they spring to the sky, their gossamer wings catching the light—this too shall pass.

A knot of hair coming undone; bluish-green veins that travel like rivers under skin; bones poking out of people’s bodies—this too shall pass.

What we love shall pass, what we hate shall pass.

We shall pass.

What a painful, heavy truth to carry on our back.

Even at a young age, I felt the weight of this truth.

I was born and raised in a sleepy town nestled in the outskirt of a metropolis in Bangladesh. A rail line track cut through the edge of the town. It was customary for people to take a nap after lunch. My mother–after a heavy day of cooking, cleaning, and feeding her four children (her fifth child came many years later)–found the time to catch her breath after she tucked us in for our afternoon nap.

I rarely took my afternoon naps.

I would lay down alright but would get up as soon as my mother had dozed off. I would roam our empty yard that trembled in silence. I used to watch the oriental magpie-robins and the sparrows weave through the open space, sometimes stopping to perch on the guava trees that lined around our house. I would watch the afternoon sun lean heavily in the sky, then sink into the horizon.

I hated afternoon naps.

Afternoon naps reminded me that I was going to die, that time had slipped through my fingers while I slept, that breaths had come and gone during my sleep that will never come back, and that I was running toward death faster than I wanted.

Afternoon naps or no afternoon naps–the fact remained the same. 

This too shall pass.

The bones moving beneath my flesh, the sea of poppies undulating in the wind, the waves crashing against the sides of jagged boulders–this too shall pass.

 

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The pain of this truth still has the power to capsize me. 

But whenever I sink into my fear of death, of dying, of impermanence, I learn what waits on the other side of this truth: freedom. 

When I fully own this truth, I am liberated.

I can release one moment and be born into the next.

From breath to breath to breath. 

I can travel lightly through life.

What a beautiful gift.

I can feel laughter roll inside my belly, and know that this too shall pass. I can lean on my sorrows, wide-eyed and dumb, and know that this too shall pass. I can sit with my shame, dance with my anger, get intimate with my fears–and know that these shall all pass.

I can be present, tender, vulnerable, open to Life.

And this can only happen when I make room for Death in my living.

Birth, death, creation, destruction–the dance of life.

Let this dance course through your body.

Let this dance course through your writing, too.

Every time you write, put your whole life on the line.

Every time you write, make room for death, too.

Release your former self on the page and birth a new self. Again and again and again.

In this process, your writing becomes a burial ground and a birthing site all at the same time.

When you are mapping out the unfolding of this world in your notebooks, when you are writing out the beauty and the madness you witness–remember the dance of life.

Birth, death, creation, destruction.

Let yourself and the world emerge on the page through that dance.

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