a visit to the columbarium – a reminder of our mortality
. . . . and lessons to consider . . . .
This essay is largely a follow-up to our earlier essay on the transitoriness of life (see link below). It is offered in a positive desire that it will help some in their life’s journey. We are not motivated here by a morbid or depressed state of mind.
On 27 April, we drove to the Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland, California, to pay our respects to deceased loved ones. The chapel is a crematorium, mausoleum and columbarium in one facility. Memorial services are held on the ground floor.
A visit to such a place (cemetery, graveyard, etc.) is a humbling experience. One is confronted with the ever present (and inescapable) reality of one’s mortality. With each passing second, one is closer to bodily death (or as some refer to it – “transition”).
Before we get to the photos taken that day, we offer these sundry thoughts on life and death.
Humans have always been aware of and thought about their mortality. So much so that death became for primitive man a rite of passage.
Do not let death and the fear (or anxiety) of death win out and triumph over life. You can choose to live a simple life, and still find contentment. One does not have to chase after thrills, fame, or riches.
The existentialists (Sartre, Heidegger) say the value is in living the intense life. Those who practice Zen advocate being present in the present moment without being a prisoner to, or victim of, past regrets or anxieties about the future.
Perhaps we are like grains of sand on the beach that the waves (vicissitudes of life) repeatedly wash over . . . . until one day we are washed out to sea.
There are those who will say “the dead should have no claims on the living”. But, we ought to remember and honor the sacrifices our departed loved ones made for us. Let us honor the fact that they played an important and necessary part in our lives. (This applies even to those who are not our relatives or loved ones. We are the beneficiaries of the sacrifices of many who have gone before us.) Let us remember the love they had for us, and the love we had for them. As well, let us value our living loved ones and show them our appreciation while both they and we are alive.
Having said the above, we will add that – it seems to us – that the visits to the graves or memorials of the dead are really more for the psychological and emotional benefit of the living. The dead have likely moved on and are glad or relieved to be free of the sufferings we endure in this world. (Worry not, dear readers, my speculations here are not to be taken as “dogma”.)
Personally, it seems the older I get the less concerned or worried about death I become. This may be evidence that at a deep level of my psyche I am wearying of life in this world. As well, why fret over the unavoidable, the inescapable? (On my 25th birthday, the psychological crisis of realizing (and accepting) that I was mortal was endured. And, that is many moons ago. For some people, this does not occur until they reach age 40 or older.)
The famed science fiction writer, Arthur C. Clarke, lamented once to the effect (paraphrasing from memory): “Will we never know what lies beyond this life until we join these dead?” He was looking at a local cemetery in Sri Lanka. He had retired there late in his life and made this remark at the end of an episode of a TV series he hosted in the mid to late 1990s – Arthur C. Clarke’s World of Strange Powers.
(As to Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, I seem to recall that in Marco Polo’s writings he noted the natives of the island claimed that Adam (of Adam and Eve fame) was buried on a certain hill there, known as Adam’s Peak. That was back in the late 13th century.)
One other thought we would like to share with you. The living ought have some concern for younger people and for future generations. The old have a responsibility to younger people and to future generations. It is very troubling to see the old cling to power and refuse to pass the reins of power to a younger generation. Many of the policies and decisions of these often short-sighted individuals do great injury to younger people and to future generations. This is wrong – morally wrong. Too often, the ones making the harmful decisions will not live long enough to see all the pain and hardship they caused. Since humility and decency are lacking in these power hungry individuals, a mandatory retirement age really is necessary for judges and elected officials at all levels of government. We suggest this age be 70 years. (Currently in the US Congress, many of the most miserable wretches are well past this age.)
Cultivate love in your heart. Make a positive statement and contribution with your life.
For recent subscribers, here is a related essay that you may be interested in reading.
Note: These are photos we took on our visit. They are not from the Chapel’s website.
Around mid day before any fog made its appearance, the roof was partly open on this sunny Spring day.
Looking down at a lower level from the top level of the building.
Another view of a small part of the top floor of the building.
There are many fountains scattered throughout the complex.
Another water fountain. There is an atmosphere of peace and calm within the building.
A final image.
Thanks for reading.