From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Death: The OH WOW factor

(Ascent of the Blessed)
At Steve Jobs’ recent funeral, Mona Simpson delivered a eulogy filled with intimate details that only a devoted sister could know.  Perhaps the most stirring of these came at the very end when she revealed the final words that Jobs spoke before he died.  These words were OH WOW - OH WOW - OH WOW.

His final hours were marked by what Simpson described as “an arduous journey, some steep path, altitude.”  His breathing pattern seemed to indicate that he was “climbing.”  After gazing at his family members, he then looked “over their shoulders past them.”

Just what was he looking at – and just what was it that prompted his verbal trinity of OH WOWs?

The Buddhists perhaps come the closest to answering such questions.  Writings such as The Tibetan Book of the Dead give intricate descriptions of what dying and “dead” people actually experience.  Ven. Pende Hawter reports that there are “two common meditations on death in the Tibetan tradition.”  The first focuses upon the “certainty and immanence of death” – and the second upon a “rehearsal of the actual death process.”  The goal of these meditations is to familiarize ourselves enough with death so that we live and die skillfully.

The first meditation includes these three reminders:  Death is certain (even Jesus and Buddha had to exit
through its portals); The time of death is uncertain (it comes like a “thief in the night”); The only thing that
can help us at the time of death is our mental/spiritual development (“you can’t take it with you” applies to all else).

The second meditation includes the “stages of death and the mind/body relationship behind them.”   These
stages involve the “sequential dissolution of the winds associated with the four elements (earth, water, fire and
air).”  As these four elements are being separated from the physical body, certain internal experiences occur.
These include visions of moving from darkness into light.  The light can first appear as sparks and colors, then eventually as pure clarity.  It is this Light that may very inspire the OH WOW response to death.


Copyright November 8, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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