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Death and Dying

We become aware of death and dying as young people—when our pets or people we know or hear about die. It may be someone we are close to and love. Most of the time it is older people; sometimes it is younger people who die from illnesses or accidents.

It is “acceptable” to cry at a funeral and for a relatively short time after. People usually lose attention for it if we grieve for very long. Few people outside RC can handle the deep, heavy, prolonged grieving that is often needed, and few can give adequate attention to young people who are witnessing death. Different cultures deal with death differently, but in those I know about, a year is the maximum time allotted for “normal” grieving.

As a result, we grow up “under-discharged” about aging and dying. When people say, “I’m getting old,” the unstated message often is “I will eventually die because of it, and it scares me.” It is an attempt to have a session.

Many of us in RC are not aware of the fear; it creeps up gradually. Did any of us discharge methodically on death from a young age? We usually don’t begin to do this until the fear about it gets restimulated in the present. If we were to get full attention for it as young ones, how might we regard death (and life) differently?

Elders’ oppression plays a big role in our attitudes about death and dying. We internalize its messages early in our lives. And those of us over a certain age experience the oppression on a daily basis. We need to discharge about elders’ oppression before we are old. Doing this work will greatly affect our views of death and dying.

The beginning of the RC Elders’ Commitment is “I will never die.” In his article “Is Death Necessary?”1 Harvey2 explains why this is not only a good direction but also reasonable and perhaps possible in the not-too-distant future. He says that as young people, before we are hurt in particular ways, we expect to be immortal. I recently read about a species of jellyfish that is immortal. At any stage of its development it can transform itself back into a polyp, the organism’s earliest stage of life, and then grow to adulthood again—the process is continuous. This gives me a sense of hope.

Other directions I’ve used are “My whole life is ahead of me” and “I’m living a big and full life now.” Things may slow me down, but they need not stop me. Harvey talked about “scorning fear,” which is another way to contradict our feelings about aging and death.

In general, each generation has lived longer than the previous one (except under very oppressive circumstances). Some people live long lives without ever giving up in the usual ways. I’ve read about some, and know a few personally. They are in their nineties and go to work every day. They don’t pay attention to death and dying. Even when she was more than eighty years old, my mother would say that she thought she would live forever. She never focused on her death—never said things like “I’m getting old” or “I’ll die someday.” She lived her life like that.

Pam Geyer
International Liberation
Reference Person for Elders
Bellaire, Texas, USA
Reprinted from the RC e-mail
discussion list for leaders of elders

1 In The Human Situation
2 Harvey Jackins

Last modified: 2021-06-01 12:29:59+00