Death is in the house.
I do not mean “death” death. No one is about to pass, at least to my knowledge. (Such a curious word when we really mean to die?) What I am referring to is that Archangel Azrael’s presence has come to visit. Azrael, the Bringer of Death in Christian traditions, is mainly misunderstood. Death is scary to many, welcomed by few, and mysterious to all. But Azrael is one of God’s most compassionate and gentle angels who softly carries us forward. Archangel Azrael has been a guiding force in my life for years. Azrael’s presence always brings me the opportunity to experience a profound state of seeing and feeling the sweetness of being human, accompanied by a massive heart opening from a spontaneous flow of gratitude.
When we slow down and move with the unspoken, visceral rhythms of life force that is “unedited,” we stumble into contemplation.
The opportunity for this kind of awareness is available for all of us. When metaphorical or literal death is hovering, it comes with an invitation to become exquisitely aware of the fragility and preciousness of humanity, the wondrous gift of time here, and to be grateful for the uniquely human drive to understand, explore, and be curious.
Humans, though, are curious at very different levels. The difference between those who are “sheeple” and going about their lives primarily unaware versus those who are “awake” has a lot to do with something we might overlook ~ space. We need actual space to get bored long enough to begin to contemplate our world. Yet, technological buzzards continually circle above us, watching our every move, slowly squelching our cognitive minds, and waiting for the contemplative potential within us to be squeezed out of existence. This is our world today.
Our ability to contemplate is becoming rare. There is an antidote—immersion in nature. Why? Nature is a potent gateway to contemplation because when we slow down and move with the unspoken, visceral rhythms of life force that is “unedited,” we stumble into reflection. The whispers of sleepless nights come back to us. We begin to see places in our lives that don't work.
This questioning becomes a time for courage, asking what it means to be human, what it means to be here, and what we are doing with the breath we have been given. At Philosophers Camp, participants learn to metaphorically make friends with death, understanding that we die to ourselves again and again in an ongoing dance of transformation and little rebirths.
Death, should we be so lucky, is one of the most excellent companions to walk by our sides throughout our lives, lifting and opening our hearts.
I always know Death comes to visit because my heart opens into a tremulous softness where, for periods, I can see every human as the gift of God they are. Not intellectually but through heart-eyes, and I weep. I weep for beauty, the bittersweet preciousness, and the fragility of humans. It is a state indescribable and fleeting.
During one of these periods, I realized I only fear death when I am not living fully. Living fully does not mean being successful, impactful, or making money by today's standards. Living fully means that every day is punctuated with beauty, love, and compassion for myself and others. It means that I take the time to smell the roses and take that sweet bouquet of awareness into everything I do that day.
Simply put, when we are living fully, we do not fear death. When we are living from a shadowy, vague version of ourselves on autopilot, we know something is off, and we hold fear. We may not admit it to ourselves and generally cannot name it.
And it is here that we fear death because we don't want to leave this planet unfulfilled. We don't want to leave this planet without feeling joy and understanding what it is to be “human.”
I cannot predict when Archangel Azrael will visit me. The last time was at the beginning of COVID when we all had the opportunity to look at our mortality. Initially, many of us walked hand-in-hand with Death during that time, and compassion, sweetness, and service spread in our hearts. Everything stopped, and we had space. We explored our inner landscapes and realized how much we wanted to live (or didn't want to live) ~ millions committed to making radical change. For a short window, we deeply cared for each other and saw the treasure that being here, now, is.
Every breath is a gift. And Death, should we be so lucky, is one of the most excellent companions to walk by our sides throughout our lives, lifting and opening our hearts to a place of awareness where we know we matter because we live.