Reverend Stephanie Dowrick, PhD | Writer / Interfaith Minister
Tina, Death has been part of my life since I was about six years old. My absolutely beloved mother died when I was eight, and three of her siblings also pre-deceased my grandparents. There was never any escaping that death brings losses that are sometimes close to impossible to bear.
I have never regarded death as the end of everything. Nonetheless, the loss of the familiar physical form, the essence and vitality of our loved ones, is utterly wrenching.
My sense is strong now that each of us is primarily a soul, and that the soul is truly eternal. “Eternal” is hard for us to imagine with our finite minds. But certainly it precedes the life we know and continues beyond our imagining.
For all the comfort of that, though, I am not sanguine about death, especially when it occurs early in life or is caused by humankind’s inability to live in peace. Because I feel so deeply about the loss that death brings, I am outraged by the carelessness with which governments, for example, support war(s), rather than driving with all their will and intelligence for peace - and an end to the unfathomable suffering that early death brings.
I do feel that we can have a “good death”. I’d see that as timely, peaceful and conscious. To have a chance to say what matters most, to calm one’s mind, to prepare the heart and to become increasingly soul-aware: what a privilege that would be!
None of us can know with any certainty what happens when we die but I trust the soul, I trust my soul that’s surely “made in the image of God”: this can only mean in the image of love, wisdom, illumination, compassion.
Leaving this body behind, how do we continue to evolve? I can’t know. But I trust. Will “I”, the soul, return to this physical world? I’m inclined to think so, and have felt immensely drawn to some deep experiences with a remarkable sense of familiarity.
But the narratives of what happens next matter less than my instinct that in our body and beyond it, our greatest privilege is to learn what love is. And maybe more than that. In this life, and surely beyond it also, we can awaken to discover not simply how to be more loving, peaceful, thankful and connected, but how to become love itself. Surely that is our original, divine blessing?
- Stephanie Dowrick, 24 November 2015
Editor's notes: Reverend Stephanie Dowrick, PhD, is a leader and pioneer in interfaith, post-denominational spirituality and inter-religious understanding. She has been writing and teaching from a spiritually inclusive perspective for more than 25 years, and leading one of the world’s largest and most diverse spiritual communities, with its home at Sydney’s Pitt Street Uniting Church, since 2006. Further reading...
- What an exceptional woman and letter. I have loved Stephanie ever since I read Intimacy and Solitude as a young woman. I’ve read many of her other books and she always shed such a deep and compassionate light on this life. Beautiful photo of her Tina. Thank you. - Kirstin Guenther (Facebook)
- The image of Stephanie you have captured Tina honours the essence of her beautifully crafted words. Gorgeous work Tina & Stephanie!! - Frances Taylor-Marshall (email)
- What a fabulous additional to the project Tina. So inspiring. - Deborah Fleming (Facebook)
- What a wonderful letter. Bx - Benita Tunks (Facebook)
- A really heartwarming letter. - Pam Cossey (Facebook)
- Love what Stephanie had to say about life/death. - Helen Dunne (Facebook)
- Oh thats so awesomeness - Sarah Malone (Facebook)
- Poignant and inspiring - Rosada Hayes (Facebook)
- Beautiful photo of you - and such an important initiative. Thinking about death and sharing our thoughts and experiences is surely the way to best prepare ourselves - Jennie Orchard (Facebook)