One of the more interesting – for me – notations of what Pantheacon became, was a dialogue on the concept of death. Now, for me, death is the end of one cycle and the birth of another. Yes, I am a believer in reincarnation. No, I am not a person who wants to delve deeper into that by looking at my past lives. There are many reasons for that, but the strongest one for my mind, is that I am here and now. What I did in a past life may have the potential of being part of this one – but I am living this one, not the previous one and most assuredly not the incarnation to come. Focusing here and now allows me to provide for the role I am supposed to be in this life.
The “Death Panel” was interesting at Pantheacon. Byron Ballard started the panel off by singing – not sure if she was singing the ancestors in or if she was singing in praise of the ancestors or both or neither – that didn’t matter. It was GORGEOUS and raised the hairs on my arms. It was POWERFUL stuff. The panel focused a lot on how to help others prepare for the end of their journeys, and how to help prepare yourself as well. There was quite a bit of discussion on mundane things, including the need for a Will. There was a lot of information to weed through, and I am certain many of the folks came away from the Panel with a lot of different points and perspectives.
Kristoffer Hughes gave a wonderful presentation on the perspective of dealing with dying. At one point, he relayed a very, very interesting perspective on how cancer forms in the body. At the end of that small segment, he ended with the point that cancer had taken his father from this life. You could literally feel the anger that Kristoffer had for what cancer was and what it did to his family; but you could also feel the warmth, and love that he had for his father which had a heavy hint of sadness attached to it. I get that….
Two years ago, right around this time, my father passed away from a heart attack. Two months earlier, he had surgery to deal with Stage-1 cancer, and was dealing with chemo treatments. As a Type-II diabetic, I am certain that his body’s ability to deal with the chemo treatments was not exactly the greatest. Six months prior to his death, my mother passed away after a three-plus year battle with dementia. It was hard to deal with, especially when your own mother rarely remembered your own name. Just to show how unprepared these moments can be…I had three years to deal with my mother’s ultimate passing. When my father called me that morning, I had a sense of relief – not a sense of loss. I got the news of my father’s passing when I was at OBOD’s Gulf Coast Gathering.
That night, I did the initiation into the Bardic Grade. I was happy to have been initiated by others into the Grade (I had done a self-initiation four years earlier, but it did not have the effect that this one had on me), but I was also numb at the sudden nature of my father’s passing. It took another three weeks to fully understand what had happened, while I was trying to pack a few belongings out of his house before selling it. It took another full week of grieving to bring myself back to balance.
I have resisted a lot of labels over the years I have been alive. And I have resisted even more in the thirty-one years I have consciously been on this Path of Paganism. Only recently was I tagged with the label of “Elder”. And that one single conversation, with someone who had not been born when I made my first aware steps within Paganism (in fact, she wouldn’t be born for another ten), really shook my foundations. Whether I want to accept it or not, I am an Elder within Paganism. I may be new (somewhat) to the path of OBOD and Druidry, but I have been Pagan for more than half of my fifty-one years within this incarnation.
My father passed in his mid-seventies. If I survive that many years, that’s only about twenty-five more years that I potentially have in this incarnation. What else do I want to accomplish? What places do I wish to see? What kind of Priest am I to be? All concepts I struggle with from time to time. And then one thought enters my mind, when my father passed away – what was he thinking of doing? He had already retired from his job as a Pathologist, nearly twenty years after he had retired from the United States Air Force. I know he wanted to spend time in his home reading, watching tv, and occasionally playing a round of golf. That was why he moved to Hot Springs Village in Arkansas – because there seven golf courses there. But in his own time, he did wood-working. He made little characters that corresponded to the seasons that he could put on the back of his mailbox. A scary cartoon ghost for Halloween. A cartoon rabbit holding an egg for Easter. He not only cut these out, but he developed the system on the back of the mailbox to hold these. All it took was a screw and a bolt to hold the thin piece of wood in place. He painted those pieces, and when they faded – he would paint them again.
In a manner of speaking, I have done the same thing. I have an MS Access database of Major League Baseball stats that goes all the way back to 1882. Every Winter, I update the system with stats from the past season, including adding a new players. I also find out which players had died during the past year, and update a field with that information as well. Its not as open a display as what my father did, but it is something that I treasure doing. I go hiking when the weather permits me to do so. But mostly, my spiritual work at the stone circle in my backyard is where my time gets spent.
Am I ready to die? Hardly. There are aspects of my life that I want to work more with. There are places, such as Glastonbury Tor and Mount Tai that I still wish to visit. I still have yet to see Avebury, Stonehenge, and Newgrange. I have friends that are on the other side of the Atlantic that I have yet to touch hands with or get hugs from. For me, my life is not complete without those actions being taken. And there is so much more. Perhaps, I am trying to run from Death as fast as I can – and that statement would be correct. But its not about running from Death that matters – its the way that I spend my living moments, and how I prepare my own family members for the moments past my death. I want my friends and family to remember the fun times with me, the times we smiled and laughed together – rather than the uglier moments. Those moments have happened, and will happen — and the idea of glossing over those moments is reprehensible. Were I to pass away tomorrow, I would want my friends and family to rejoice and celebrate that we shared all those moments together. The good ones, the bad ones, the ugly ones, the indescribable ones. Because all of that encompasses the meaning of us. And that’s what I will cherish; both in the here and the beyond….