Fear of death. Only a couple years ago this was my biggest terror. I would wake up in the still wee hours of the night in a fearful panic, lying in my bed staring out the blackness. It was these moments when I felt the most insecure, the uncertainty of who I was beyond my body all-consuming my awareness. I was mostly convinced I would be annihilated upon taking my final breath. This largely stemmed from my religious upbringing, a deeply effective indoctrination that had once convinced me that I was a sinner destined to eternal damnation. This never made sense to my logical mind, nor aligned with the deep enquiry, research and investigation into religion and history that I later poured myself over. My solution; to abandon this for the other extreme – the belief in complete and utter annihilation.
In my early thirties my courageous baby brother was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma cancer. I watched as his vitality slowly drained from his body, but never his lust for life. He had always been the family clown and practical joker and these qualities were only enhanced. It was six years and hundreds of hours of tears behind me when he finally left this world at the tender age of 33 years old. This journey became my biggest lesson. During his last years I began to open up the conversation to the taboo subject of death. I looked behind the veil of polite western suppressive culture and saw that others were talking about death too. I made it a mission to bring it out into my conscious awareness on a daily basis. I even downloaded a smart phone app that would send me five inspirational quotes about death each day. By then I had grown immensely in my emotional resilience, making it a priority to master my mind and face my fears. Whilst processing my grief I asked for help from a wonderful coach and counsellor who showed me that I might like to look at celebrating instead of mourning my brother’s journey to the other side. I wasn’t so sure still about the soul living on but I did take her comments on board and began to feel comforted. Only a week before he passed, I asked him very specifically if he would give me a sign when he was safe on the other side. I figured I had nothing to lose in this simple request and was relieved when he responded in the affirmative with enthusiasm. I recall thinking that his assuredness made me question if he knew something I didn’t.
I received a call from my mum the morning of his death. It had been only ten minutes since he had taken his last breath. Stunned, I felt unusually still and peaceful as I allowed the news to sink in. This was the scary moment I had waited for, for six long years. I was distinctly aware that it wasn’t the stab in my heart I had expected. Surprising, even to myself, I got in my car and decided to drive to work, a good hour’s drive. I remember feeling a numbed kind of relief knowing he was out of his ailing body and finally free of his suffering. I turned on my favourite podcast series by Hay House and began the usual road trip to the next city where I was teaching a class of jobseeker’s emotional life skills. I turned up the volume and found a song was about to begin, a melodic and joyful guitar piece whistled through the speakers. Then two beautiful voices started singing just one word over and over again – “Celebration”. Goosebumps shot up and down my arms and legs as I allowed the words to sink in. I recalled the conversation with my coach and counsellor and felt compelled to take in the message of celebration of a life lived so beautifully. I breathed into the words and felt deep joy, gratitude and appreciation for having known him and loved him.
When the song ended a women’s’ voice began to speak. She was the next inspirational speaker at a pre-recorded live event, and she was about to share her miraculous life-altering story with the audience. I listened as she first began describing being on death’s bed in a hospital. As she spoke, she described in great detail all of the elements of her physical suffering. It struck me that every single deathly affliction she was depicting was the exact same symptoms my dear brother had faced in his last hours of life, in real time, only moments before. From the multiple tumours choking her organs to the Edema that swelled up her body’s tissues, all the while feeling the agony of intense insufferable pain. She then described leaving her body, moving up and becoming aware of her new form – that of the essence of pure unconditional love. There was no fear where she was, no terror and no grief. Once again, goosebumps entirely covered my skin as I suddenly realised that Mikey was talking to me. She was able to recall seeing her whole family making their way to the hospital to say goodbye to her. She could see her brother was not going to make it in time as he boarded an aeroplane. And then she was shown that she had an option this time, that it didn’t have to be her time to go, that she could return and be healed and change millions of lives in the process. I sat back in my chair in the bumper-to-bumper traffic of the busy highway in awe. I felt the presence of my brother with me in the car, smiling at me. I smiled back. I knew he’d just given me the sign I’d asked for. He was safe on the other side. Fear of death is not a thing in my life anymore. Without that fear I live more fully, more joyfully and more peacefully. Accept death, love it and never deny it. Celebrate your life instead of fearing an end, for I believe, the end as we think we know it, never comes.