the gifts of death

I've met Death before. Several times.

The first time I was terrified. I was afraid that I’ll die without having lived life as I wished to live it. Until then I’ve lived by somebody else’s rules—parents, husbands, government structures, or my young son. Taking care of others has become my priority, and I have forgotten to let myself live my life… 

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Glancing at Death helped me make a new decision—to live fully before I died. I realized that life is about pleasure, beauty and joy. I decided that it’s time to have fun and live life like I always wanted to, but never did. I decided to enjoy life, invest in myself and unfold all my talents. I decided to leave behind something beautiful, and to shine

I knew that one of my life’s lessons was to learn to depend fully on myself. I left my wealthy but boring husband with whom I have ceased to have sex. I chose an attractive, exciting and attentive man for a lover. I took a large apartment on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, rented a slick artist studio overlooking Times Square, and resolved to live my life as a free spirit and a full-time artist. 

I got divorced. I was clear that I will never marry again. 

Having spent the teenage phase of my life with adult’s responsibilities, I now threw myself in parties and painting. I hanged out with artists-friends and explored the exciting life of a visual artist in Manhattan in the 90's. It was a carefree, exciting life of glamour, creative frenzy and big hopes that seemed realistic for all.

I was promised two years of life, so money was not something to worry about—there was plenty for a lifespan of two years. I spent money freely and it came just as easily to me. I was making art that I loved, and I indulged the exhilarating promises for success.

It was a dream come true: I shined at gallery openings, museum galas, film premiers, elegant opera performances and odd seedy underground things I didn’t have words for. I enjoyed my fascinating friends, constant male attention and women’s admiration. 

Nine years later Death came at my door for a second time.

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By now I had achieved some artistic success, exhibited my art around the world, received some prestigious awards, made influential friends, got another masters’ degree, and fell hard for a man who refused to be loved. 

Making art became a tool for my healing. I traveled a lot. New York had lost its charm for me. I lived in South East Asia for few years—looking for meaning, sacred knowledge and the eternal truths. I wanted to know the Universe and to understand the deepest layers of human psyche and soul.

I meditated for hours, danced sacred dances, and twisted my body in impossible yoga positions—in search of my own divinity. I prayed in countless temples and walked through the holiest of places, in hope to heal my heart.

I met amazing teachers who provided wise answers and initiated me in ancient healing arts. I’ve learned to connect with myself and the Divine. I also learned that there’s nothing more precious than Love. Yet, I suffered greatly because I didn’t feel loved. 

Meeting Death for the second time was a humbling experience. As I was sitting in the midst of paralyzing fear, I suddenly understood the true nature of Love! My heart cracked open and tears of gratitude and love streamed down my face and neck. And right then and there—all alone after a scary biopsy, I realized that when I feel love, I have it. And when I withhold it, I don’t… 

This was the second gift of Death: to feel loved I simply need to let myself love!

And that night, under the gaze of Death, I had an extraordinary experience of love! I was to meet with the man who didn’t love me the way I wanted him to love. That night I loved him without expecting anything from him. I loved for the sake of love. I loved just because I can…

I have discovered the recipe for the deepest inner peace!

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Today I glimpsed at Death again.

This time I am not afraid. This time Death smiles through the mist of a prolonged but ordinary flu. Thoughts and memories of men from the past have visited me between feverish sleep and fits of breath-stopping cough. I suspect that that this flu is here to help me let go of whatever judgments I still hold about men.

I suspect it is here to unleash the hidden tears that might have been stuck in my throat and chest; to release and purify my soul, and deepen my authentic expression. I suspect it is here to help me take back the authority over my worthiness and to stop proving that I’m good enough.

This time the invitation is to forgive myself and all the men I perceived as hurting me. To forgive myself for staying too long in traps I mistakenly took for love. 

To forgive myself for trying to prove that I deserve to be loved. To forgive myself that I gave to others the authority to decide whether I’m worthy of love. 

It’s not an accident that Death appears to me again on Forgiveness Day, the holy day which in my country is dedicated to chasing away the darkness of fruitless winter and preparing for new growth.