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Blog de Carlos Goga

Reflections about death: a journaling exercise

11/11/2017 | | English, experiencias | No hay comentarios

I never took death very seriously when I was younger. I can remember easily that part of my life were unconsciously challenging death was part of the game. There could be lots of different situations where this happened, but what I remember the most was at those time when we did motorcycle racing in these snake-like roads in the mountain of Cullera. Girls were scared and we boys were proud. I had some accidents but I felt them as part of life. This is interesting because I always felt, and keep feeling, death as part of life. This continued even when I quit motorcycle and started cars. I had one insight at this time when by chance I was able to avoid a death accident. I was driving and entered this curve extremely fast and made it out a crazy maneuver. We were two boys and three girls in the car. They were as excited as scared. I was just scared. This I think was the first time I just realized that playing with death could be a risky business also for others, and I actually felt I did not want to kill anybody at all.

When young, death came to visit a couple of times. César, my very good friend at school, died because of this ugly disease. They just announced us but we were not able to see him not to go with him to the cemetery. No explanations at all. I remember I cried at lot, but that sadness feeling just vanished in some days. Some years later, when at the University, Juan Carlos, also a very good friend of mine, died in a motorcycle accident when he was coming to take coffee with me. I was waiting at our place and he never arrived. This was especially hard and upsetting. I chose freely to walk with him to the cemetery. This was my first visit ever. Lots of crying and emotional breaks which I felt nonsense at that moment. Later in life, I can recognize crystal clear that i was so closed I could not even express my sorrow with tears.

I had other death visits coming from my family, but they were older people and I thought this was life ruling its way, so I never cared that much neither I participated in any death ritual. My parents, from time to time, got crazy about me because of this. But I could not feel it so as I just closed doors and walk my way.

Then, this phone called happened and I was told, while at the office, that Goyín and Quique, two cousins from my parent family branch, just got killed in a car accident. I organized to be in the road in less than 30 minutes and reached my family small village very shortly. When I arrived, I surprisingly realized I was the older cousin and everybody, everything dropped on top of my shoulders. I was almost blocked to presence that much pain and sorrow and despair in my family I somehow managed to build enough strength to manage it all. This is the darkest day I can feel in my life so long. When everything ended, I almost felt on my knees and cried alone for many hours until I was exhausted to almost die myself. Of course, I never talked about this with anybody. I even think this writing, tears on my creeks, is the very first time I dare to remember and feel about that unforgettable day.

Some years later, while watching The Lord of the Rings, I remember listening the following: “It is not fair for parents to witness the death of their sons and daughters. These should never happen”. I felt those words as mine.

Of course, all these changed when I deliberately chose to close the business I started some years before, went bankruptcy, and felt I did not have any extra strength to keep life moving. I became to think that maybe I already lived all important things in live and that life was over for me, nothing left to actually discover or enjoy. I can easily connect back with that shadow feeling of letting life go. I can easily feel that period was grey, colors just disappeared from my life. I strived to build some new things and get back into will, but I sincerely felt I was enforcing myself into a direction I was not feeling at all. All these took me into such a foggy mind state that I had a flash of lightning awakening and found myself  seated, legs to the outside, at this 8th floor balcony in my parent’s beach apartment. I move back and laid in the floor, my body shaking madly, while thinking I could not do this neither to my son not to my parents. I recognized I have almost fallen into abysm and that I should strongly change my approach to life. I can easily remember that it was not fear to death, but the shame and sorrow that killing myself could represent to all those around me.

This happened in autumn 2008. I came out of this by my own, forcing me into every single situation until the energy of life came back to me. I keep as a treasure the mantra I told to myself at this time of my life: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. I found extra strength and energy in trying new things, especially those very different from the ones already lived, so as searching the new in me. I feel that I found a new life when at the verge of death, and weird as it could look, I feel gratitude to this situation and to death. I like to thing about this as the Ave Phoenix in me, in all of us.

Nowadays, I can talk about this with ease. Of course, it has not always like this. It took me years to be able to recognize and verbalize this chapter of my recent life, and accept it openly. I can remember as if it was yesterday the difficulties I went through when I chose to build a public presentation around this suicide attempt and some good learnings I built on top of it. Although it was planned as an 18 minutes speech, it took a long week which drove me to surrender to despair, inner negotiation, and bad dreams. I recognize crystal clear that all my fight was against this deep feeling of weakness for falling into the trap and shame for showing me in my darkest vulnerability. Being able to cross through this, I can also recognize easily, has taken me to a higher level of inner peace and openness with others. No dark secrets, nothing to be ashamed of is extremely healing and relieving. At least, this is my experience.

Of course, up to now I have not mention death from a religious point of view because I always felt those are crazy lies of insane people trying to get answers out of nothing and instrumentalizing them to enslave others.

When in my search, randomness of live put me on different death rituals. I clearly remember this one at night when I had to say good-bye to all good things in live, kind of walking the path of the 7 rings, to voluntarily enter a coffin, let others close it, and witness my own mourning from within the closed coffin. How long I stayed there I know, but how long it felt to stay there is part of magic of life and death. Although I was scared to death while waiting for my turn to do the ritual, I remember facing it fully aware and alive, no fear at all. When they opened back the coffin and received me with chants, I felt the energy of life at its fullest while feeling the good learning that death could be sweet if I manage to make a life that was well lived.

This happened in the same 9-months workshop with monthly retreats were I was required to gather pictures of all men before me (which I did for my father, my grandfather, and my grand grandfather, in addition to my son) and all women before me (which I did for my mother, my grandmother, in addition to my sister) and feel what is in me that comes from them. This ritual of linage recognition, including the life of those already dead which lives in me, made me also feel that life is more than just a body but a whole golden chain of experiences which transcends one single person. As an anecdote, I built a picture set with all them and go surprised when this person got into scandal because I was mixing pictures of death with picture of life; of course, I just smiled and kept with my own mindset.

At that time, life also offered me the discovery of conscious sexuality. This happened in an extremely beautiful place in the mountains. There was a dining room and a chimney in that place. On top of the chimney, there were two crossed old swords. This is important because for the very first time of my life, I deeply felt I would die fighting for something. I surprisingly recognized the feeling in me that I would defend until death this knowledge and these practices, so divine and beautiful and full of love, and I will defend any person committed to them, in face of an attack by conservative fanatics.

Some years later, I was prompted to write a letter to myself from that very moment of life before death. It came very easily and clear: “Live life at your fullest and do not let fears to block you from what you actually feel you do want to live”. I keep this also as a good advice to approach my own death. This matches very well with that other comment I heard from Steve Jobs at his amendment speech at Stanford University: “When I look at the mirror and I feel I do not like the day I am going to live, and this happens for some days in a row, then it is time for change”.

Being more prepared for life and death, death chose to come and visit those around me who I love the most.

First situation happened with my son. It just happened that he found dead his grandmother’s dog. He was shocked and cried a lot. Adults around him did not take him seriously and just relied on time for solving the situation. When he came with me, his mother advised me about the situation and told me not to say anything. Of course, I felt different and provoked a conversation with him. I told him that death is the big unknown for human beings and that we have invented different stories like heaven and hell, or the reincarnation in animals, of the multitude of unknown young virgins awaiting, to make up an answer. When he asked me what I actually thought, I told him that in this I only trust my own experience and offered him a game. I asked him to try to think before he was born. He told he couldn’t. Then I asked him to try to feel before he was born. He told me that was a little bit easier and said he felt silence and coolness. I asked him if that could be said as “the feeling of peace” and he said he did not know, but maybe. Then I said to him my very best guess is that we come back to the place where we come from, and this place has no pain, no suffering, just the “feeling of silence and coolness we feel as peace”. He bought it and went on with smiles and games as if nothing bad had happened.

Second situation happened with my father. After a yearlong restructuring of the family business because of the economic crisis, he had this double heart-attacked which lead him to heart surgery. After some days at the hospital, it was time for him to leave the intensive care unit and move to a regular hospital bedroom. As my mother was very tired, I offered to watch for him the very first night, which surprisingly she accepted. I was fully devoted to service unconditionally my father for the first time in life. We entered the night and I slept. When the dawn came, I awoke and found my father already awoken. When I asked how he was feeling, he fall on tears and told me he had never been so close to death and that he was very scared. I offered him a talk about death and he accepted, so I prepared two seats, one in front of the other, and helped him move from bed to chair. I told him about both situation above, my ritual and my conversation with my son, his grandson. I also add a new insight I had. I told him that for me death was like leaving for a long journey. And that I could easily feel the difference between leaving by letting everything organized and being able to say good-bye to everybody I cared, and leaving without preparing anything at all and saying good-bye to anybody. The first leave is comfortable and easy, while the second is stressful and hard. Then we moved into silence until he broke it by saying “Thank you, son. You helped me a lot”.

Third situation happened with my mother. Having received breast cancer surgery long time ago, she was able to recover strengths and keep up with live. But the whole heart illness of my father got also on her. She stayed up while he was at risk, but then she became very fragile and weak. It felt like if she was using extra energy to stay besides him during difficulties. Her vitality has gone so low that when the family gather together for lunch she is no longer able to cook by herself. So it has been my chance to support her and even replace her as cook at family gatherings. This situation, somehow forced by life, I feel extremely thankful as I got to stay closer to her and learn to enjoy cooking when done out of pure love. During these last years, she has had some health crisis. I remember that night when she was full of pain, not able to sleep, crying disconsolately at bed. My father was very nervous and it took me to take care of her. I approached her and sit by her side at the bed. She was ruminating she was dying. I just hugged her against my chest and whispered again and again, “Relaxed, everything will be ok, never mind if you choose to stay or to go. Just relax, feel my breath, and feel the love of the son, my love”. She calmed quite a bit and was able to rest and even sleep until my father came back with some instructions gotten from the doctor. Since this episode, every time I meet my mother she looks for my long, sustained hug and deeply smiles. Some months later, she was going through hip surgery. The day before, she was very scared, so scared that she even thought this was going to be her last day. I approach her while she was admiring sunset and she told me “Maybe this is my last one, son!” I remember kissing her while holding her hand to say “If so, aren’t we that fortunate to have this extremely beautiful sunset for us to remember?”. She smiled and we hugged for long time. Later that night, I phoned my son to ask him to talk to his grandmother and offer her “good luck, grandma, and show her his love of grandson”. He a teenager was reluctant, so I shared the sunset situation with him. He understood perfectly and phone her in a rush.

We the brothers always have thought that my parents will die together. Never mind who will be first, the other will follow almost immediately. It is not that they have been more than 50 years together, not that they love each other so much, it is just what we feel when we see them together. It feels like common sense of the heart.

Along with all these, I have told my son some times that I have the strong feeling of living again thru him. Maybe difficult to understand, but I deeply feel part of me keeps living with him, with all the situations he will have in life.

Death has chosen to call also on two very good friends of mine lately. Unexpectedly for me, although not for her, Olga died of cancer. She received her diagnosis silent, not telling almost anybody until she slept forever. We were intimate friends during adolescence. She was my age, mother of two, her husband also an old friend. I got the news when I was going to catch a train for business. It shocked me. I tried to make arrangements to travel back to the funeral and say one last goodbye while being with her family and friends. I felt I needed it. But I was not able to arrive. Some days later I visited her at the cemetery. This has been my very first visit to a beloved one already resting in peace. To my surprise, irrational as it seems to me, I spoke with her in a long talk which included as many tears as laughs.  I promised her to spend some time with her children and husband in Christmas. So I did.

This year, my beloved friend Xispa died in a car accident. We were best friends since teenagers. I loved his vitality and his willingness to live intensely every situation. Xispa means spark. He recognized me in every aspect of manhood and ask for advice as soon as he had the chance. I actually love him and our moments together. When I decided to move back to Valencia, he was so happy that he could not stop making plans of all those things we could enjoy together now that we were close again: sailing, diving, trekking, discovering restaurants and wineries, and visiting old friends. He was my best relieve in moving back to Valencia, a process I thought poorly which ended up with lots of uncertainties. Then, death came in and everything cracked. Again, news got me in Madrid but I managed to come home quickly and be for the burial. This time I managed to go through the sorrow with his wife, his sister, his cousin, and all friends of us. I felt relief by this collective support we offer to each other in a never-ending dance of tears, laughs, stories, kisses, and hugs. I could experience how important is to gather together in difficult times and how easily we can move from saying goodbye to saying hello, from the happiness of the unexpected encounter to the sadness of the unwilling farewell. Ups and downs of life and death, those still alive need to listen again and again “it is ok, it will be ok, everything will be ok”. By the way, I felt I wanted to help anyway to those in more need, specially his wife and children, but it was so chaotic and so ritualized that simply the offering of help look like out of the game. I would love to change this for other situations, although I still do not know how.

My relationship with death would not be sincere nor complete without an explicit memory of the abortion we had when I was young. Although we broke some weeks earlier, she called me to share she was pregnant. She was maybe 22 and I was 21. I could say I offered her the freedom to choose, but the situation was so unexpected and inconvenient that I gave her almost no option but abortion. I asked for the money to my beloved cousin, which she offered without further questions, and arrange for abortion in Madrid some days later. We built a web of lies so as driving very early in the morning to receive surgery, having some time to rest at the clinic, and then drive back late at night. This actually closed any chance of recovering the relationship with ease. I always felt that I was not the father (math reasons) but she insisted and I took charge. During the years, I had the chance to remember that I could be a father of another child, although it always seems so obvious that life would have been so different that surely my son would not be here. So even if trying to rebuild life differently, I have never succeeded. Feelings are somewhat confused. Yes, I feel very sorry for having pushed her towards abortion, but I cannot find feelings for the child to be born.

This last death situation which follows feels special because I had the strong feeling that death visited in a rush, too early. A beloved cousin and his sister’s husband, a brother-in-law, were in a strong fight because of business issues. I offered myself a couple of time to mediate, but they (both men) did not welcome me. She, being sister of one and wife of the other, called upon me in despair to ask for help in order to make peace between them. “Of course, I will help” was my spontaneous answer. But then, death arrived and took her husband away, letting the whole situation unresolved. I can easily feel the frustration of time, of not being able to act sooner, of not being able to be more convincing from the very beginning, of having received death too early.

But I feel death has been also very generous with me. Dark as it could look, my aunt and my uncle (parents of one of the cousins who died in the car accident) have offered me the love they had for the dead son. I welcome it with no resistance at all, feeling very fortunate for that. Some funny situations have occurred when my mother and my aunt have entered into argument about me, even throwing back and forward feelings of jealousy, while I announced everybody, smile at my face, how different and funny is to feel being a son of two mothers. Very different in narrative but very close in feeling, I already mentioned this, I can easily feel I died out of a life I was not enjoying anymore and I was born into a new life I am amazed and extremely happy about, full of light and love. So gratitude to death also is part of my experience.

At this time of my journey, I can easily differentiate between the unexpected death of a young person, which I feel as a broken life, and the well announced death of an older person, which I feel as an easy next step in life. Even though, I feel both are part of life and both present a treasure to the rest of us still alive. The first helps us remember that life is fragile and full of uncertainties, so we better live life the better we can from moment to moment. The second helps us remember that life is long and full of opportunities, so we better live life as we choose, grasp the opportunities that we like the most, and fight against any force that tries different.

Back to Steve Jobs, I need to include his words (which I feel also mine) that “death is the most powerful innovation strategy of life because it lets go the old and makes room for the new”. I strongly feel this and I offer it in lots of different situations, especially when talking about innovation and change.

My only fear about death is not death itself, but to be buried while alive in a body that is dead (or almost dead). There is this movie named “Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun” that perfectly amplify this fear of mine which I easily understand as a fear of many others. Because of this, I fully advocate for the right to die with dignity, a right I would like to see granted to both the person who is in terminal state, and his or her beloved ones (call it euthanasia or whatever).

When my death arrives, I would love to be cremated and my ashes returned to mother earth with ease, maybe thru a new tree, maybe with the help of the wind or the sea. When my death arrives, I would love to assist to my last party where all beloved ones could say good bye. If able to ask for some special thing, I would love to have “The Pan Within” as my life soundtrack and be recognized as “the first lovetopian man”. Nowadays, I even dare to feel that the most extreme love making act would be to have my ashes mixed with those of my beloved one and go together back to earth to feed new life.

If I think in death, I feel lots of inspiration to live a better life out of my own gifts and an intention of love. If I think in death now, I feel peace when I think my son is already a strong good man who can make his own life, and I feel peace when I think that I have already contributed to a better world with #lovetopía. Nevertheless, I also feel I still need to explore love in a more divine, deep way; so I would ask death to let me around for some more time. Same way, I still feel I have more good contributions pending for a better world; so I would ask death to let me around some extra years to make them possible.


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