For reasons that still remain murky, since my early adulthood, I have maintained a sharp focus on mortality – my own and everyone else’s. As a result, I am drawn to discussions about the interface of life and death, joy and despair, and happiness and suffering. The world of podcasts has rewarded my dive into the rabbit hole with single episodes and entire series that explore death, dying, grief, and loss.
This may sound like a painful place to exist, and it certainly can be. It can also be a brilliant place. I believe that it is my acute recognition of the fragility and brevity of life – for us, all sentient beings and those, like trees, whose sentience we may just not understand yet – that has led me to this place of climate action. I feel so deeply the pain of Earth and grieve for her losses that have come at our, at my, hands. But that grief would not be so poignant if I did not also revel in the beauty, joy, and glory of what our world blesses us with every moment. It is all so beautifully and painfully glorious.
How does this relate to those death and dying podcasts, you might ask.
I have found myself spending more time on the despair side of the equation. I have been acutely aware of the declining number of songbirds that visit my yard. I have been questioning my fellow citizens’ choice of candidates who outright lie, laugh at others’ suffering, and encourage hate. While textbanking in relation to the climate, I was greeted by some with angry epithets that included the F word. I recently shared a post on Facebook that expressed imagining a world where we could all work together. I didn’t really expect any responses, maybe a share or two, but a relative actually responded that it was never going to happen. Ugh.
This all led me to a place that I am not really proud of. I started wondering why, pardon my language, I give a *@#! and why I keep making the effort that I do. I certainly don’t want to make you think I am some kind of saint. I am not, but I make efforts where I can. I eat an almost entirely vegan diet and live a vegan lifestyle. I never buy anything that is tested on an animal. I compost and thrift. I try to repair and upcycle anything that I am able to. I try to always be kind.
I’ve started to wonder why bother.
Then this past week I listened to an interview of Alua Arthur on a podcast called “EndWell.” Alua Arthur is a death doula and a pioneer in her field. She teaches other like-minded people how to become death doulas through her school, Going With Grace. She asks who we want to be when we die. Her core question is this: “What must I do to be at peace with myself so that I may love presently and die gracefully?”
The answer to this question came quickly to me. Whenever that time comes for me, I want to be able to say that I did my best to be kind, that I made every effort to do no harm, and that I acted consciously, taking the next right step and interacting with care. I will not always succeed, but I will know that I strived to do so. Knowing this about myself is helping me to let go of the outcome a little bit. Doing what I know in my heart to be the right thing is enough, enough for me to be at peace with myself when I look back upon this wild and glorious life.
My hope for you is that you can find what will make you come alive in this work. I hope you can rest in the peace that you have lived presently, you have accomplished what you feel you have been called to do, and you have done enough.
• • •
JOIN US! The Climate Action Team meets next on Monday. Nov. 21, at 7:30 PM, and we invite you to join us on Zoom. Contact Jon Reese at email@example.com for the link.
GOT PROJECTS? The Carbon Offset Fund is now ready to offer grants. Read more here and consider working with another member or church group to prepare a grant request. We can’t wait to fund innovative projects!