You don't get to choose how you're going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you're going to live. Now.
-- Joan Baez
Nothing pushes ego's buttons quite like human mortality. We get attached to being in the world and having our friends and loved ones there with us. We know intellectually that none of us will live forever, but we often keep ourselves in a state of denial as to what that might mean in our own lives.
When my daughter was little, she would assemble all of her little toy "people," and set up a town on her bedroom floor. Each person had a car, a house, and a job. She might ask you to play with her, but you were not allowed to move one thing, and if you had your "person" say something, she would often say, "No, she doesn't say that." It was all perfect in her mind, just the way she wanted it to be. She had created her world, and she was in control.
This is a little how ego thinks. As we reach adulthood, we create our own place in the world. We have our home, work, family and friends. Our lives are like series of ongoing stories: one for each significant person in our life. Unlike my daughter, we hopefully do not feel the need to control all of the plots and characters. What is troubling for ego is that we have no control over when any of the stories might end.
Ego does not like to think about that, deciding not to worry about it until something happens. There are two problems with this. The first is that when something does happen, like a death or life-threatening illness, ego is shocked. This was not supposed to happen. It was not in ego's script. The second problem is that an important aspect of awareness is blocked.
Admittedly, it can be difficult to see our lives and those of others as only temporary. Like getting into a cold swimming pool, at first it is a big shock to the system, but then you get used to it. It does, however, require a shift in perspective. Ego's capacity is not expansive enough to not only to accept the temporal nature of human existence, but to embrace it and allow it to consciously enrich our lives.
For this, we need the soul's perspective. For soul, the human physical form is only the costume soul is wearing for the run of this particular play (life). Soul simply turns in the costume when the play is over, or when it is offered another role that it cannot refuse. We are actors who meet again and again, each time playing a different role-relationship, gender-in relation to one another.
Ego, of course, does not realize this, and thinks the play is all there is, and its role is its identity. Others are identified only as their role as well. This is very limiting, and if a major player departs, the play falls apart. So ego keeps its blinders on as long as possible, for it has no back-up plan.
When we identify with our souls instead of ego, and see the souls of others, everything changes. Years ago, as a beginning teacher, I was helping a young student when, for just a moment he looked right into my eyes. In that moment I saw his soul-it as though he was reminding me that there was more to him than the seven-year old student in front of me. I have never forgotten that. Although currently in the role of a child, he might well be a soul much older and wiser than I. I learned then to always honor the soul in every person.
We are all just passing through. Knowing this, we cherish every day. We treasure every moment with loved ones. All that is given in this lifetime is to share some of the journey with others until we, or they move on. That is blessing enough.