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A Death in the Neighborhood

“People do not die for us immediately, but remain bathed in a sort of aura of life which bears no relation to true immortality but through which they continue to occupy our thoughts in the same way as when they were alive.  It is as though they were traveling abroad. ” ~Marcel Proust

Recently a man shot himself in the head in his garden. I pass by his home every time I get the opportunity to walk through one of our community’s most beautiful neighborhoods. It is just blocks from one of the largest and well adorned city parks in the northwest. I relish the canopy of trees, the singing birds and the vast array of  plantings that scent the air most of the year.

I had heard of this suicide as he was a fellow physician in the medical community in which my husband practices.  I had known his children from a distance growing up along side my own. I hadn’t heard the details of the tragedy until the other day when my dear friend and his neighbor told me about hearing the gun shots. Loss of this magnitude ripples out in every direction. It tears a hole into the fabric of our collective reality and we all begin to ask the questions that could have maybe been asked before.

How do we live beside people and not know of the deep despair that can so easily capture the heart? How is it possible that the deadening sorrow remain invisible to so many? These are the questions that so many ask when the fabric of families, neighborhoods and communities are shred. Those left behind wonder how someone could do this to them, but in the moment, my husband the psychiatrist informs me, the solitary pain is so great that the person taking their own life cannot think beyond it.

Actually this place of getting so lost in our own pain, worries and distress is common to most of us humans.  I am continually searching for the ability to be present to the world in spite of the concerns and frustrations that I am carrying.  Even today as I walked by the garden, noticing the colors and smells of spring erupting  I wondered if he was unable to see the beauty right in front of him. Could he not hear any of the birds, so loud were the voices in his head?

In a recent radio interview,  my guest, Bodhipaksa was sharing how after a friend of his had suddenly died, that it was months before he could actually believe it. We create holograms of the people we love and know in life and they live on inside of us, long after a body has gone. We have to keep learning to let go of our fixed images of ourselves and others, but it takes time and requires that we be fully present- and paying attention to now.

It is when life is torn open and seemingly torn apart that we most honor our loss by mending the threads of connection around us. Full presence, nothing less.