“I’m dying.” Is it True?

Recently a woman I know who is living with cancer told another woman she just met that she is dying. She has been living with cancer for 3+ years now and has many more days/months ahead of living her life.  I hadn’t questioned the belief of dying until I was at the 9 day Byron Katie School of The Work.  During one large group session a man stood up to tell Katie his story before doing The Work with her.  As a part of his introductory story, he said “My dad is dying.”  Katie interrupted him and asked, “Is it true? Is your dad dying?” He replied “Yes!” and then shared his father’s medical condition.  Katie responded, “We are either alive or we are not. In my experience people are living until they are not.” Katie then asked the man, “Is your dad dying?” After thoughtful contemplation he replied “No” and then continued with his story.

This was such a brief exchange but I found it profound. It inspired me to question my own idea of “dying” to discover that I agree with Katie. When I look at someone who tells me they are dying, I see a person who is alive and still full of life force. We are alive until we are not! About a year ago a good friend with terminal cancer said to me, “I need to get everything in order because I’m dying.” My response was, “You look very much alive to me!” And is it true, do we need to get everything in order? Is it possible to get all things in order?

What other beliefs do we carry that could be questioned? “She’s lazy.” “He should get a job.”  “I don’t have enough money.” What beliefs would you be willing to look at today?

Comments

  1. A very sensitive subject for me as my mother did die of cancer. I find that I cannot question other people’s realities. I also believe that I am here until I am not. Still, is it just semantics to use dying or living?

    • Byron Katie suggests that we question our stressful, unpleasant or in any way uncomfortable thoughts. If “He/she is dying” is not in any way stressful, there is no need to question that thought. I know that when I believe a good friend with a serious illness is alive instead of dying, I am brought to the present moment which is more peaceful. If I think “My friend is dying”, I most likely will feel some sadness and project that sadness into the future when she is no longer available to me in physical form.

  2. What a thought-provoking post Anna. While so much of me agrees with what you’re saying, there is also the part that wants to say let’s not overlook or dismiss that very sacred time when someone really IS transitioning out of this life – whether it is a matter of hours or days or weeks. I want to be careful because we’re so death-phobic in our society that we don’t adopt even more strident ways to not approach the subject. But I also agree think welcoming someone to reconsider how they might want to wish to reengage with life more fully and vibrantly is a beautiful thing as well. So indeed, you’ve given me much to think about today. Thank you.

    • Yes, I agree about the sacred time when a person transitions out of their physical body. I want to argue with Byron Katie, “BUT what about when a person’s (or pet) physical body is shutting down? Wouldn’t we call that “dying”? I have sat with a few individuals and pets who were making their transition. Their bodies were dying, or were they alive until they weren’t?

  3. Anna, I believe there are many statements we make that could be questioned. I teach 4 and 5 year olds daily and everyday I have to correct the children who say “She made me mad!” No, you allowed yourself to be mad.

    When I was newly pregnant with our son, I would hear the statement “Oh, you’re just a little pregnant.” No, a woman is either pregnant or not pregnant. How can she be a little pregnant?!

    In regard to the question of dying, I am reminded of the Bible verse “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16. My husband has just had two brain surgeries to try to stop the rapid advance of 14 year struggle with early onset Parkinsons Disease. The damage already wrought to his brain can never be repaired. So some might say he is dying. But my incredibly strong and optomistic husband always refers to this verse! And he, indeed, is renewed spiritually everyday with the assurance that all is well!

    • Thank you Ruth for sharing your powerful story and experience. I think we could learn a lot from your husband (and you)!

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