David Palladin continues his reflections on shamanhood and dying when he says:
We have the privilege of serving others, of reaching out to them. We can share with others that they have died and are reborn. Even Christ said that you’re not alive until you’ve born again. The shaman is a warrior who has experienced that kind of death before their physical death.*
I shared some stories of my mother’s death that I recount in my book, Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet. Humans can often approach death in ways other than passive, death itself becomes an invitation to be creative.
When my mother was in the hospital and close to death, two of my sisters came to see her. She said to them, “I was up all night last night, didn’t sleep at all.”
One responded, “I will talk to the nurse and ask her for some meds to help you sleep at night.” “Oh, no,” my mother said. “I was up all night because I have never died before, and I wanted to figure out how to do it right.”
Then she turned to one sister and said, “Roberta, this is a waste of your time, your hanging around to watch me die. Why don’t you go do something more important and useful.” Then she said the same thing to my sister Terry.
Then she said, “This is a waste of time for me too. How long is it going to take for me to die?”
Weeks later, when the doctor told us she was soon to die, all seven kids flew in with spouses etc. to be with her. After three days I had to return to work in California, so I went up to her sitting in a chair to say my goodbyes.
She said to me, “Tim, you know I’m not afraid to die.” I said, “I know and I know why.” She replied, “Why?” I said, “Because you are curious and you are looking forward to an adventure.” She replied, “Exactly.” With that we kissed, and I moved on with that word “exactly” being the last word we exchanged.
She died ten days later while riding an indoor bike.
*A correspondence from his wife from a closing address David gave to participants at a shamanic workshop he conducted in 1983.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Creativity Where the Divine and the Human Meet, pp. 218-220.
Banner Image: Dandelion releasing its seeds, Finland. Photo by Saad Chaudhry on Unsplash
Queries for Contemplation
Thomas Berry has said that we need “fewer priests and fewer professors and more shamans.” How do you think David Palladin’s teachings on shamanhood and death relate to that observation from Berry? How do the stories of my mother’s attitude toward dying strike you or encourage you?
Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet
Because creativity is the key to both our genius and beauty as a species but also to our capacity for evil, we need to teach creativity and to teach ways of steering this God-like power in directions that promote love of life (biophilia) and not love of death (necrophilia). Pushing well beyond the bounds of conventional Christian doctrine, Fox’s focus on creativity attempts nothing less than to shape a new ethic.
“Matt Fox is a pilgrim who seeks a path into the church of tomorrow. Countless numbers will be happy to follow his lead.” –Bishop John Shelby Spong, author, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, Living in Sin