The Truth of Who I Am

"Only the truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free." -Eckhart Tolle

It’s All Temporary

on December 29, 2013

On the day I was born, the only thing guaranteed to me was that I would die. The realization of this guarantee has been a journey I have rarely avoided and often sought out. When I was in college, I was drawn to and took an elective course titled Death and Dying which worried my father a whole lot. I have always been fascinated, curious, confused, and overwhelmed by truths I have learned on this journey. I seek to understand death in the hopes of understanding life. I believe this is a journey we are all on throughout our lifetimes.

Lately, I have, once again, found myself in a phase of grappling with death. It seems like I’ve been surrounded by people who have said goodbye or are in the process of saying goodbye to loved ones. A dear friend recently said goodbye to her father, a wonderful colleague and beloved grandmother to a seven year-old retired back in May then died unexpectedly a few weeks ago, a co-worker has been caring for her mother who is aging and coming to the end of her life, an uncle I admired passed away a month ago, a dear friend had a miscarriage. It seems that death, when it finally comes, shows up for those who are living even brighter. I find my mind wandering into the minds and hearts of those who lost their loved ones and also to those who left their bodies. This is something I believe wholeheartedly – we are IN our bodies here, but our bodies are simply temporary places for the truth of who we are. The real part of us is our spirit. And I believe, when we die, our spirits simply join the Great Spirit, God, I Am, Love.

With death on my mind, writing about it feels like the only way to get through my thoughts and to make sense of them. But the truth is that even as I type this post, I feel a nagging fear and desire to get up and leave my keyboard along with all the thoughts of death running around in my head. I want to keep death at a safe distance. I don’t want to consider my mortality nor than of anyone I love or even the mortality of the ones they love. I don’t want this to be any kind of preparation for any kind of upcoming experiences. And yet, I know my entire life is about death – the one thing guaranteed for me. I’m only ever going to live my best life if I come to terms with the truth of my death. I am temporarily here and so is everyone, EVERYONE I know. If you’re considering clicking away from this morbid post, I don’t blame you nor do I judge you. Click away and then come back when you’re ready. You’re on this journey of life, too, which means that you’re also on this journey of discovering death. Hold my hand as I delve into the darkness of death in search of some light.

About that temporary experience… when I was about 11 years old, I remember looking into my father’s eyes and, for the first time, realizing that he was getting old (he was only 47 at the time). I’m not even sure what about his eyes looked different, older to me, but it hit me like a ton of bricks and I walked quickly to my room and cried and cried and cried at the thought of my Daddy getting older, at the thought of his mortality, at the thought of there being an END to this man that I had known my entire life. It was the first time, I believe, that I realized that everything around me would change as time went on. Everything was temporary. The fact that we were a family living together in a house – that would change, the fact that I was a young girl -that would change, the fact that I had my siblings around me – that would change, the fact that I had my dog, Blackie – that would change. All of it would change. Slowly, but surely, everything would change. I resolved then that I would always notice and feel, really feel the changes as they happened. That resolution has caused me to cry harder well before goodbyes happened. It’s also caused me to comfort people, including myself, in a way that says, “Yes, this hurts and this is hard and I am going to miss how things are because they won’t ever be the same again. Tears are fine. Sadness is fine. Clinging until you have to let go is just fine. This is life. Feel it all.”

My first encounter with death, close up, was when I was a teenager and a little, adorable 3 year-old boy drowned under a bridge at a park with several families out at a picnic. I was with him before we left for the park and he was very sure he did not want to go. It seemed unusual for a 3 year-old not to want to go to a park but I chatted with him and convinced him he would have fun and he eventually let me put on his socks and shoes to go. When they found his body and took him to the hospital, his little denim jacket ended up at our house somehow and I always felt his presence when I was near it. He had to have known his time in that little body was about to be over. Even his little spirit had to have known. And even if there was a piece of him that also knew he would be okay, I’m sure he felt the sadness that comes with letting go and I’m guessing he was trying to cling on just a bit longer. I wish I had known to just listen and be with him and allow him to feel whatever he was feeling. There is a sacredness in knowing about things that are not of this earth. I wish I had known to honor that sacred space he had been in.

Another close encounter with death came as a gift in a message my dear friend, Mercy, sent me. I was in graduate school, living in my townhouse. I had recently been to visit my family in Zambia and had been able to visit Mercy. Mercy was a friend I’d had since 7th grade. She was one of those very special friends that, no matter how much time passed between visits or contact, it always felt the same to be with her – the silliness, the looks, the understanding, the love and the deep, deep connection that is offered to only just a few friendships. She was that kind of friend in my life. One of my soul mates without a doubt. It happened through the course of a few days in my townhouse where I’d pass by my guest room and notice that my clock had stopped at 3 AM. I fixed the time on the digital, plugged in clock and went on my way. The next day, I noticed it had stopped again at 3 AM. A little puzzled, I fixed it and carried on. Then it happened again the next day and I knew something was up. I got an email that night from Mercy’s brother informing me that she had died and her time of death was 3 AM. I felt so honored that she had come to let me know of her passing from this life. I felt comforted by her gift of letting me know that her spirit was with me.

I guess that experience took away the fear I had of dying because I realized that death was inevitable but certainly not the end. It’s sad for us who are left behind, but when we go, we are simply continuing on a journey in a different realm. I don’t know much of what there is to know about death, I do know that I must live here in this realm fully. There is a Divine purpose for every moment that I am here and for every encounter and experience I have. I saw an IMAX movie on a field trip with my David’s schoolmates called The Hidden Universe and I was fascinated all over again at just how VAST the universe is!!! It reminded me that we are specks like the Whos in Whoville that Horton heard (Dr. Seuss fans out there?).

And yet, each moment is filled with possibility and purpose and choices. Each moment MEANS something. It baffles my mind how we can each be so important while being so tiny. How is it possible to be so significant and yet so temporary. So very temporary. It seems that in our tiny speck of an existence in the way we are, we HAVE to live it fully. And maybe, my realization of the truth about death leads me to the realization that life is beautiful because it is temporary. Life must be beautiful because it is temporary. One of my favorite poets said it so well:

  If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life. 
      For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.
      In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond; 
      And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring. 
      Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity. 

-Khalil Gibran

Our dreams matter. The people in our lives matter. Our wishes matter. The truth of who we are matters and we must seek it and live it everyday in every moment. The moments matter. If you are in the process of letting go of someone you love or in the process of letting go of this life or if you have let go of someone you love, my wish for you is peace in knowing that it’s all temporary – this life and the separation is all temporary. The spirits of those who leave are always with us. It’s not enough, but it is temporary.

Truthfully yours,



6 responses to “It’s All Temporary

  1. Nancy Fernandes says:

    Really nice Rhina…..

  2. Elizabeth Washburn says:

    Thank you. I got some hot tea then read your message. It felt like I am hanging out in your house pondering our life purpose like so many years ago. I have recently been examining the vastness of the universe and our very temporary existence. You are an old soul and I am so glad to have you and your thoughts in my life.

    • justrhina says:

      Elizabeth, I know you’ve been through so much related to this topic. I’d love to find some time to get together and hear about your thoughts on our temporary existence. Glad you’re in my life, too.

  3. Josh brown says:

    Rumi said-
    “Behold our life and love as reality and death but a dream. But one day death becomes our reality, and this life and love become but a dream”

    Good post Rhina-Strikes a chord with me as I’ve lost many friends and mentors this year.

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