Death, Life, and Rebirth


I have a friend on Facebook who is slowly dying.

He announced his terminal cancer diagnosis a few months ago, and since then his friends have been rallying around him. On Facebook, he’s been posting pictures of trips to the beach, his favorite drinks at the bar, heartbreaking photos of him and his mom, and now, pictures of his deterioration.

I don’t know him well. But somehow, through his documentation of his final days, he’s come to life for me in a way I never would have expected. I think about him, wonder how he’s doing, and send him good wishes. But most of all, I admire his courage in sharing his journey.

Then, this past week, I read an obituary of a woman I never met, but who in some ways could have been me. She was exactly my age, 52, a mother, CEO and vice-chairman of a family business (that had included a brother that predeceased her), and a pillar of inspiration and leadership for her company and family. She was hit by a car while running. I can only imagine the chaos and sadness her family and company are feeling right now. But truthfully, I can imagine it, since my father was killed suddenly, at 60, in a car crash. We survived—but it was hard. It took a very long time for things to feel normal again. And it became “a new normal”—never the old normal again.

They say bad things come in threes (Why is that?), so I shouldn’t have been surprised when the other night, while checking Facebook in line at the grocery store, I saw that one of my friends had died unexpectedly. I had one of those moments when I thought I was insane, or having a stroke, or experiencing a mistaken identity. I was stunned.

I’d known this friend almost my entire life. He had worked for my father and had been friends with my now-deceased brother. But while we’d seen each other occasionally throughout the years, I hadn’t really spoken with him…until last week. Last week, we had lunch. But not just any lunch. A lunch at which I felt he’d been sent by the angels (or perhaps my late father) to help me think through some things that really needed thinking through. Business things. Leadership things.

Not only was I really looking forward to more discussions with him, but I also left the lunch admiring his vibrant health and physical strength. Which is why it seems so crazy that he died peacefully in his sleep. He left behind a 15-year-old daughter whom he’d been raising on his own. He left behind a family and friends who will be struggling for years to try and accept and understand why he died. And why he died when he did.

What does it all mean? Every minute, about 107 people around the world die. That’s every minute. We can’t escape death. No one can. Nothing can prevent death and those who are trying are missing the whole point. I am convinced, after experiencing so much death in my own family, that life does continue after death. I’m even convinced that each of us participates in the decision of how and when we die—even though we might not be conscious of it. I’m also convinced that we never really know what’s going to happen or when, so it’s best to just live in and appreciate each moment, each person, and each interaction as if it could be our last.

Of course, knowing all this doesn’t make the transition any more bearable or less shocking. There is no spiritual or energetic substitute for a warm touch and a tender smile, a laugh shared over a delicious meal, or a good strong hug.

Who knows why we are here or why we die? We may never really know. Each death is a reminder of the mystery of it all—a reminder that we can only live each day as if it were the most important day of our lives, and love as if it means everything. Each death is the birth of a new journey, somewhere, sometimes here, sometimes in the great unknown, sometimes, sometimes. It sucks. But it is what it is.

What keeps it all in perspective for me is observing nature. Everything goes through a continuous cycle of birth, death, rebirth and death again. But everything is useful, has a purpose, brings joys, feeds hungers, and has a place in the continual evolution of life. We can’t help but be a part of it. And all we really can do is surrender to the mystery and enjoy life as it unfolds, even when it doesn’t make sense. Even when it’s hard. According to the first law of thermodynamics, energy is constant and cannot be created or destroyed only transformed.

In my mind, that energy is love.



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11 Responses to Death, Life, and Rebirth

  1. Marta July 7, 2014 at 6:32 am #

    Thank you for this Maria. Well said.

  2. Lorna Donaldson July 7, 2014 at 8:17 am #

    Thank you for this reminder Maria.

  3. Rob Sayre July 7, 2014 at 10:25 am #

    Thanks Maria. Bad things happen in threes; my experience this Spring as well, losing my sister at 71 a good friend at 59 and my lovely mother-in-law at 98. Each unique, loved and amazing in their own ways. We share this time on earth briefly and love, indeed is that essence.

  4. Leah July 7, 2014 at 11:27 am #

    This is really beautiful, Maria. A lovely reminder to appreciate the moment.

  5. Alice Green July 7, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

    Your words hit the nail on the head for me, Maria. As I get older, 71, I think more about life and death and beyond. I want to believe that somehow – someway life may change but how can we not go on, continue our evolution? I know I haven’t evolved to the best of what I can be, but I’d like to, and I’d like to continue to exist somewhere after I’m no longer here. Also, I’d like to know how my beloved Goddaughter turns out, she’s 20 now, but I know she will be an even more amazing adult! When I think about my eventual death, I find myself wondering how I can make it less messy, less work, less burdensome on those left behind. Instead of someone saying, “what do we do with this stuff?” – I’d like to have them say, “Well, she must have known she was dying, there’s not much left for us to do.” Not that I plan on dying anytime soon, but thinking about it does make me more and more aware that the best thing I can do with my life right now is to live in the moment and be aware of and very thankful for each moment. It makes each day that I am gifted with life more precious and makes me more and more grateful for everything. Watching a tiny, tiny seed I planted in a pot on my balcony, start to come up with it’s little green top – just makes me almost laugh out loud with joy. Life! What a gift! What a joy!

  6. Melissa July 7, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

    Thank you for this very touching and thought-provoking post. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

  7. Donna in Delaware July 7, 2014 at 4:10 pm #

    I sympathize. I’ve been going through similar events over the last couple of months. In April, very close friends of ours was supposed to have visited from Europe, as they do every year. The husband called to say that they couldn’t come because the wife was found to have a malignant lump in her breast. Shock! They have caught it early on. Another couple from Europe, also very good friends was supposed to come this month, the husband called to say that they could not. She too was found to have a lot of activity from breast cancer, she had it twice before, thought that it was beaten, but it has returned. Shock! Last year, one of my closest girlfriends in Virginia passed away in her sleep. She had a daughter that just started college. The daughter found her in bed dead, before she headed out to class. Shock, shock! shock! Last month, my best male friend and only confidante passed away in Canada. I was reeling. He had colon cancer, it was known, but that did not stop me from wailing when they told my he had passed. It didn’t have to happen. I was angry at him because he left. I kept telling him for the last, I don’t know how many years, to get a colonoscopy. He didn’t. I cried my heart out. He’s gone.

    I keep asking myself, “Why are we here, if this is all there is after living in this world?” There must be something else after all of this! If not, then what is the point of our existence? Life is a mystery, death, even more so. All we have is today, this moment in time. Although we plan for many tomorrows, we still only have today. As I always say,
    “Here today, gone today”. Not here today, gone tomorrow, for tomorrow may never come for many of us. It is NOW, that we must contend, and content (satisfy) ourselves with, not another day. I believe in the afterlife. I must because not to believe in it is scary, There must be more, there is more, a higher power has told us so, and so, I believe.

  8. Ana July 7, 2014 at 5:09 pm #

    Thanks for this post, Maria- it helped me a lot. My husband and I are living through the very slow dying of my brother-in-law. While dying unexpectedly has its own pains and problems, I think that watching someone die by inches is almost unbearable. I am not afraid of death but I am afraid of this kind of dying. But you are absolutely right that we must live each day to the fullest and enjoy each moment of the goodness of life and leave dying to its own time, Thanks for reminding me.

  9. Gina July 9, 2014 at 11:11 am #

    A friend of mine died a few days ago. Thank you for writing this article Maria, I was instantly comforted.

  10. Susan July 10, 2014 at 9:54 pm #

    My granddaughter and I were just discussing life and death this past weekend. She is 18 and I am 60. She told me she believed our lives are planned out before we come here which is something I have always believed. I really enjoyed this article! Thanks.

  11. Chetan October 27, 2014 at 4:32 am #

    Not really sure, why situation always happen in three way around us. I don’t know what the connection is and why people around us make us weak. I was born in India and i understand the concept of rebirth but my only question is if someone has to die in pain why does rebirth take place. But problem is not rebirth it’s the current life wherein things are so diversed and even without knowing things happen. I will die sooner or later but i don’t want to die in pain or bother people around me with whatever disease may or may not happen to me.

    Overall i believe in living once once and ensuring everything we do is so good to people around us, instead of doing bad deeds or hurting other’s sentiments physically or mentall it only generate curse and bad pointers for us instead of carrying burden throughout our life we should focus only on blessings and if i am not wrong in last phase of our life it’s our earned blessings that would give us calmness of moving ahead in another phase of life….. Dn’t knw what that would be. 🙂

    Stay blessed, always respect others and don’t hurt any living being…..

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