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On Life and Living
All passages below are taken from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ book, “The Wheel of Life—A Memoir of Living and Dying.” It was published in 1997.
It is just like me to have already planned what will happen. My family and friends will arrive from all parts of the world, wend their way through the desert until they come upon a tiny white sign planted in a dirt road that says Elisabeth, and then drive until they reach the Indian tepee and the Swiss flag that stands high above my Scottsdale home. Some will be grieving. Others will know how relieved and happy I finally am. They will eat, trade stories, laugh, cry and at some point release dozens of helium-filled balloons that look like E.T. into the blue sky. Of course, I will be dead.
But why not throw a going-away party? Why not celebrate? At seventy-one years old, I can say that I have truly lived. After starting out as a “two-pound nothing” who was not expected to survive, I spent most of my life battling the Goliath-sized forces of ignorance and fear. Anyone familiar with my work knows that I believe death can be one of life’s greatest experiences. Anyone who knows me personally can testify to how impatiently I have been awaiting the transition from the pain and struggle of this world to an existence of complete and overwhelming love.
It has not come easily, this final lesson of patience. For the past two years, I have— thanks to a series of strokes— been totally dependent on others for the most basic care. Every day is spent struggling to get from bed to a chair to the bathroom and then back again. My only wish has been to leave my body, like a butterfly shedding its cocoon, and finally merge with the great light. My spooks have reiterated the importance of making time my friend. I know that the day that will end my life in this form, in this body, will be the day when I have learned that kind of acceptance.
The only benefit of making such a slow approach to life’s final passage has been the time it offers for contemplation. I suppose it is appropriate that after counseling so many dying patients I should have time to reflect on death now that the one I face is my own. There is a poetry to it, a slight tension, like a pause in a courtroom drama where the defendant is given the chance to confess. Fortunately, I have nothing new to admit. My death will come to me like a warm embrace. As I have long said, life in a physical body is a very short span of one’s total existence.
When we have passed the tests we were sent to Earth to learn, we are allowed to graduate. We are allowed to shed our body, which imprisons our soul the way a cocoon encloses the future butterfly, and when the time is right we can let go of it. Then we will be free of pain, free of fears and free of worries . . . free as a beautiful butterfly returning home to God . . . which is a place where we are never alone, where we continue to grow and to sing and to dance, where we are with those we loved, and where we are surrounded with more love than we can ever imagine.
Thankfully, I have reached a level where I no longer have to come back to learn any more lessons, but sadly I am not comfortable with the world I am departing for the last time. The whole planet is in trouble. This is a very tenuous time in history. Earth has been abused for too long without regard for any serious consequences. Mankind has wreaked havoc with the bounty of God’s garden. Weapons, greed, materialism, destructiveness. They have become the catechism of life, the mantra of generations whose meditations on the meaning of life have gone dangerously awry.
I believe Earth will soon correct these misdeeds. Because of what mankind has done, there will be tremendous earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions and other natural disasters on a scale never before witnessed. Because of what mankind has forgotten, there will be enormous casualties suffered. I know this. My spooks have told me to expect upheavals and seizures of biblical proportions. How else can people be awakened? What other way is there to teach respect for nature and the necessity of spirituality?
Just as my eyes have seen the future, my heart goes out to those who are left behind. Do not be afraid. There is no cause for it, if you remember that death does not exist. Instead know your own self and view life as a challenge where the hardest choices are the highest ones, the ones that will resonate with righteousness and provide the strength and insight of Him, the Highest of the High. The greatest gift God has given us is free choice. There are no accidents. Everything in life happens for a positive reason. Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms, you would never see the beauty of their carvings.
As I pass from this world to the next, I know that heaven or hell is determined by the way people live their lives in the present. The sole purpose of life is to grow. The ultimate lesson is learning how to love and be loved, unconditionally. There are millions of people on Earth who are starving. There are millions who are homeless. There are millions who have AIDS. There are millions of people who have been abused. There are millions of people who struggle with disabilities. Every day someone new cries out for understanding and compassion. Listen to the sound. Hear the call as if it was beautiful music. I can assure you that the greatest rewards in your whole life will come from opening your heart to those in need. The greatest blessings always come from helping.
I truly believe that my truth is a universal one— above all religions, economics, race and color— shared by the common experience of life.
All people come from the same source and return to the same source.
We must all learn to love and be loved, unconditionally.
All the hardships that come to you in life, all the tribulations and nightmares, all the things you see as punishments from God, are in reality like gifts. They are an opportunity to grow, which is the sole purpose of life.
You cannot heal the world without healing yourself first.
If you are ready for spiritual experiences and you are not afraid, you will have them yourself. You do not need a guru or a Baba to tell you how to do it.
All of us, when we were born from the source, which I call God, were endowed with a facet of divinity. That is what gives us knowledge of our immortality.
You should live until you die.
No one dies alone.
Everyone is loved beyond comprehension. Everyone is blessed and guided.
It is very important that you do only what you love to do. You may be poor, you may go hungry, you may live in a shabby place, but you will totally live. And at the end of your days, you will bless your life because you have done what you came here to do.
The hardest lesson to learn is unconditional love.
Dying is nothing to fear. It can be the most wonderful experience of your life. It all depends on how you have lived.
Death is but a transition from this life to another existence where there is no more pain and anguish.
Everything is bearable when there is love.
My wish is that you try to give more people more love.
The only thing that lives forever is love. [283-286]
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