Embracing the Transience of Life and Death

Like the image of a vibrant green leaf gradually burning to brown, death seeps in slowly, yet inevitably.

At the beginning of my first book, I included a quote that has held profound significance in my life:

“The body is a treacherous friend. Give it its due, no more. Pain and pleasure are transitory, endure all dualities with calmness, trying at the same time to remove yourself from their power. Imagination is the door in which disease as well as healing enters. Disbelieve in the reality of sickness even when you are ill, and an unrecognized visitor will flee!” – Sri Yukteswar

This particular leaf has taken on a deeper meaning for me this past month. It came from the stem of a small green branch, part of a bouquet of mixed flowers that Ron brought home for me. The flowers adorned our dining room table until they wilted and were eventually taken to the worm farm a couple of weeks later. Yet, this small green stem thrived in the vase of water, even sprouting new leaves despite having no roots.

I felt a connection with the little green stem, admiring its determination to live on despite the rest of the bouquet fading away. It seemed to say, “I will endure, even as the others perish.”

Then last week, I noticed one of the lower leaves had turned brown and fallen from the stem. Now, the stem resides in a small glass bottle on my kitchen windowsill. This morning, I observed another leaf midway up the stem beginning to brown and curl, though the colors in its veins contrasted beautifully with the vibrant green that had persisted for so long.

Why was I trying to delay the inevitable death of the green stem? Why didn’t I simply consign it to the worms with the rest of the bouquet? Despite its growth, no roots had formed in the water. The new leaves continue to grow, albeit more slowly, and the brown creeping up the larger, older leaves is now making its way up the stem.

Reflecting on this, I am reminded of the beloved humans whose transition into death I have been privileged to witness. I have supported them, present as they gradually surrendered their bodies, which they had cherished and lived in for so many years.

As the spirit begins to rise and death seeps in, the body gently shuts down. I have witnessed sacred moments infused with a profound, universal love. When the fears subsided, I saw how the death of the body became a beautiful release—a magnificent earthly journey ending and a spiritual journey beginning simultaneously.

As a therapist, I look again at the picture of the leaf, seeking a fresh perspective—as if seeing it for the first time. What do I notice now? I see the shape of a flower deep within the leaf, the dusty kitchen window, the spider webs. I see a life lived, and I see how death seeps in like watercolour, growing into the leaf just as life once did.