Sometimes we need a story more than food. That is never more true than during our dying time, or when we're taking care of people we love. A few months before she passed away, the author's mother-in-law asked her: "What do you think happens after you die"?Read more...
Sometimes we need a story more than food. That is never more true than during our dying time, or when we're taking care of people we love. A few months before she passed away, the author's mother-in-law asked her: "What do you think happens after you die"? In response, Cindy Spring shared stories from three different traditions. Sylvia chose the old Hindu tale - the wave and the drop -- as the one that carried her through her final days. The Wave and The Drop is a small book of stories that help us consider the mystery of life and death, and start conversations about life's ultimate questions.
The Foreword was written by Dr. Charles Garfield, internationally recognized for over 40 years as a leader and teacher in the field of death and dying. Each chapter draws from a different tradition and addresses two essential questions: What happens when you die? What happens after you die? The Wave and The Drop is a kind of Aesop's Fables for the dying time.
Every tribe, religion, and culture on the planet has evolved its own stories. In this book, the sources are referred to as wisdom traditions, and their stories as wisdom stories. Some describe entering a white light, others foretell a reuniting with loved ones, or promise a new dimension such as heaven or nirvana. These are tales of joining the beloved community, dropping back into an ocean of love, and going home. They suggest that we can temper the sadness and fear that often accompany death with grace and a deep sense that there is an afterlife. Sometimes the dying person sees escorts: deceased parents, or a spouse, or angels ready to assist in the transition from life to what comes next. Alongside traditional stories about heaven, you'll find recent accounts of near-death experiences describing a personal version of heaven. In the chapter on the ancient belief in reincarnation, the reader will find several contemporary stories about children who seem able to recall past lives with amazing detail.
The Story of Transformation is that moment when the drop starts falling back into the wave, a surrender to the fact that my life in this body is ending. It can mean a larger awareness of the impermanence of everything, as Buddhism suggests. Author Richard Bach captures a version in his well-known quote: "What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly."
In the Tapestry section of the book, you'll find a selection of inspiring quotes from seekers such as Rumi, Emily Dickinson, and Kahlil Gibran. There also are insights from contemporary thinkers such as psychiatrist Irvin Yalom who helps his patients move past their denial of death, and historian Arnold Toynbee who speculated on why belief in an afterlife is universal.
In the Epilogue, author Cindy Spring reflects on how stories provide us with answers. They can bypass the rational mind by speaking to us in images and metaphors, like the wave and the drop. They contain universals honed over centuries by the best thinkers and practitioners within a tradition. The stories may be "pieces of the elephant" as described in the famous parable of the four blind men. Or fingers pointing at the moon. When we share stories with a whole community, we feel better equipped to step outside our usual death-denying world and open to a different point of view --- like the Stanford engineering professor who told his loved ones on his deathbed: "I'm off to my next great adventure."
What do you believe will happen at your death and afterward? We, and those we love, can take these stories and shape them into a personal narrative that will help us cross that threshold. This book guides us gently by the heart as we consider our own mortality and the possibility of continued existence.
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