And Death Shall Have No Dominion

In her poem, The Fourth Sign of the Zodiac, Mary Oliver talks about the urgency of living.

She asks: Do you need a prod?/Do you need a little darkness to get you going? And then brutally reminds us that such a vibrant soul as Keats died at just 25.

None of us have much time. We really don’t. I’m sure most of you have been reminded of the lack of time we have on this planet. Often it happens when someone very close to you dies, or when you get a frightening medical diagnosis. For me, it was the latter. It wasn’t cancer, as prompted the urgency in Oliver’s poem, but it was something utterly left-field, something bananas, a one-in-a-million medical condition that finally explained why I had been living with intermittent, excruciating bouts of pain for all of my adult life.

During the weeks of diagnosis, the scans and the being pinged from one grim consultant to the next, there loomed the possibility that whatever it was I had would kill me (It didn’t. It won’t). It was unbelievable and it was totally unbelievable how my mindset instantly changed.

Time became distilled. I couldn’t believe I’d had a complaint about anything before – literally anything. Everything seemed like a special, priceless gift that was about to be snatched away from me. I got down on my knees and prayed every night (and during the day, and every hour) to God to let me stay alive and healthy to look after my sons. To let me live the life that until the week before, when a scan had found a gigantic growth wrapped around the sciatic nerve in my leg, I’d been a bit ‘meh’ about.

Yes, really. I dared to be ‘meh’ about my one wild and precious life, my adorable, bolshy little sons, my practical, kind husband, my sensitive, whip-smart stepdaughter, and about my tumbly tiny terraced house in the centre of the city.

I’m not going to die anytime soon. Or I might. Who knows? Any one of us, at any time, could die or become ill, or something could happen to one of our loved ones.

It is impossible to live at the intensity of ‘I might die’ every day, or even for a moment – but having experienced what it is like, its imprint is inside of me, somewhere. It’s yet another reason why I meditate. It is so incredibly comforting. When you do it regularly, you slowly start to become aware that death cannot exist.

Because there is a part of us that can never die.

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