A Peaceful Death

by Camille Pierce

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I will always feel that my mother's death, one year ago, was simply a soul or spiritual transformation from this world into another dimension which may include an alteration in time and space. While she was living, Mom asked that, during her Memorial Service, I read her Personal Creed which she wrote in 1984. Part of it says, "I believe that upon the death of my physical body, my personal soul, retaining all of its memories and knowledge gained, will return to the spiritual realm, commonly called heaven, which is without particular place and occupies neither space nor time...."

Naturally, I shed a few tears as I read the above statement. However, I experienced spiritual comfort and an inner emotional and physical and/or inner strength never felt or even suggested before. Was Mom's message meant to be a reminder that her personal love and spiritual presence would be with me always? I continue to search for true meaning and answers to her valuable "words of wisdom."

At the end of many Episcopal services, a priest often says, "The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God..." I've sometimes wondered if Mom was thinking of those words at the time of her departure from this world.

Occationally, she made the hospital ICU nurses rather perturbed, to say the least! But Wilesta was naturally stubborn up to her last breath of this life. Several weeks after her death or personal tranformation, I performed a private memorial service for her. The area was close to where her ashes or bodily remains were scattered at sea. I read the following words by Karen Paine-Gernee from the book, Life Prayers: "So I turn my head and look towards death now. Feeling my way through the tunnel with the space of emptiness and quiet. That shimmering that awaits me. I do not have a passion to remain, but a willingness to go. My body is tired and my soul longs to fly to the shores of no pain....This place of peace resides so deep inside me....Yea, though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil....This is my direction now; inward to the green pastures, to the great light of divine love, the great peace of All Knowing."

While living in this world, Mom mentioned to me that she once had a tunnel experience or personal vision. There was a time I simply considered this to be a manifestation brought on by her alcohol intake. However, I'm now developing a different, possibly mature idea about her unusual psychic abilities. The term "life after life" has more meaning. I no longer consider this subject should be "swept under the carpet" or "locked away in a storage closet"!

The book, The Tibetan Book Of Living And Dying by S. Rinpoche, states, "...in recent years the whole subject of death and dying has been opened up in the West by pioneers such as Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and Raymond Moody. Looking deeply into the way that we care for the dying, (she) has shown that with unconditional love, and a more enlightened attitude, dying can be a peaceful, even transformative experience."

Naturally, I was awed and somewhat surprised when reference was made to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's name. I, like many others, consider her to be an expert in the area of personal bereavement and/or grief psychology. I was awed by the fact that Ms. Kubler-Ross considered the general process of death to be a reflection of one's inner-peace and personal transformation. I agree that such spiritual direction is important, if not a vital psychological necessity for one's effective recovery from the loss of a loved one.

The Tibetan Book Of Living And Dying continues, "The whole Buddhist attitude to the moment of death can be summed up in this one verse by Padmasambhava from the cycle of the Tibetan Book of the Dead: "Now when the bardo (intermediate state between death and rebirth) of dying dawns upon me, I will abandon all grasping, yearning and attachment, enter undistracted into clear awareness of the teaching, and eject my consciousness into the space of unborn Rigpa ("a primordial, pure, pristine awareness that is at once intelligent, cognizant, radiant, and always awake. It could be said to be the knowledge of knowledge itself.") As I leave this compound body of flesh and blood I will know it to be a transitory illusion."

Only in recent times have I had the courage to even browse through Buddhist literature. I find it interesting that I don't particularly need many material items. However, I admit that I'm sensitive, sometimes grasping at straws and occasionally feel inner strength at the thought of emotional and personal attachments. Unfortunately, I ain't perfect! Neither, however, was Mom. I think, in some strange way, she admitted that personal behavior to herself, if not to her immediate family.

Even though I have always considered Mom to be an opinionated, if not basic, believer in what is sometimes considered Western Christian ideas and theology, I tend to believe that she truly was open to a variety of Eastern spiritual thoughts and practices as well. To my knowledge, Mom firmly believed in some of Christ's teachings found in the Nicene Creed. However, her Personal Creed includes statements such as, "I believe in the One God, the Universal Spirit...gain knowledge through Earthly experience during bodily incarnations...the Christ-Consciousness incarnated in the body of Jesus, chosen by the Universal Spirit that is God...my personal soul grows toward perfection and eventual full communion with God."

Whew! Did Mom's rather advanced mental ideas hint at a Multiple Personality Disorder or was she simply expressing sincere, rational, personal thoughts and reflections about a sometimes psycho/philosophical subject with complete ease and personal assurance? Mahatma Gandhi said that "Birth and death are not two different states, but they are different aspects of the same state."

Occasionally, I question the meaning of Gandhi's statement. However, when I think of the times I, myself, have come close to death several times because of medical complications, I meditate about the strong possibility that we humans may possibly experience several births and deaths in our current lifetime. There continues to be often heated debate(s) among many groups of people as to whether the idea of body/mind/spirit reincarnation is true, false or possibly an irrational belief.

The Tibetan Book of Living And Dying says that certain people "...may not lose their fear of pain and dying, they lose their fear of death itself; they become more tolerant and loving; and they become interested in spiritual values, the "path of wisdom," and usually in a universal spirituality rather than the dogma of any one religion."

The book continues, "...the Tibetan Book of the Dead is read repeatedly and the practices associated with it are done...the dead are shown what stage of the process of death they are in, and given whatever inspiration and guidance they need." Part of the Episcopal Burial Service says, "In the midst of life we are in death." Perhaps, like many others, I continue to ask the question, "If death is simply a natural part of life, why do I often hesitate to further explore unknown territory?"

When the time comes for my soul to depart from this current life, I hope the same words I read at Mom's Memorial Service will also be spoken at the time of my bodily death: "The deepest we can reach in our exploration of the unconscious mind is the layer where man is no longer a distinct individual, but where (the) mind widens out and meerges into the mind of mankind...." --C. Jung, Analytical Psycholog

I felt myself in a new world, and everything about me appeared with a different aspect from what it was wont to do. At this time, the way of salvation opened to me with such infinite wisdom, suitableness, and excellency, that I wondered I should ever think of any other way of salvation;..." --W. James, The Varieties of Religious Experience

The above statement is for you, Mom!! May your soul rest in eternal peace wherever it may be located. In Christ's name, Amen.

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Camille Pierce
Santa Cruz, CA


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