What Is Death (TRANSCRIPT)

Today I will be talking about my new book What Is Death but I thought first I would give you a little bit of reference of my previous books. I wrote What Is Spirit, What Is Peace, and What Is Love, and the premises are the same. I interview people from diverse backgrounds and I asked them What Is Spirit?, What Is Peace?, What Is Love?, and they gave me these incredible responses that I say are from their hearts. That’s why my subtitle for all the books is “Messages From the Heart,” because I believe you can’t answer those questions really from your head; You have to move to a deeper level within an answer to those profound questions.

When I was writing What Is Love, I say in there that love never dies and I personally believe that. I feel the love of my parents standing with me right now and so love never dies. In writing about love, I began to think about death.

So I proceeded to write What Is Death? I interviewed a hundred and fifty people or more from diverse backgrounds and traditions and put them in this book but this book is a little bit different. In the back I have defined your legacy and I say think about your legacy. Answer the questions with your heart-filled answers so questions that I ask the reader to answer are:

  • Who am I?
  • What are my most powerful personal qualities?
  • What do I stand for and believed in?
  • What is most important to me?
  • What people touched me most in life?
  • How will I be remembered?
  • How will I look back on my life when I die and my thoughts as I say goodbye to this life.

So I say if you join all your answers from these questions you will have your legacy in one document.

The other different quality about this book is in the back. I have a section called final thoughts and there are ten blank pages. I say this section is for you so you may write your own thoughts about death and how you visualize your memorial funeral service. You may find that writing your own obituary is a healing exercised through this book. I hope you can find more meaning in your life by contemplating better understanding accepting our inevitable transition into the next realm.  Those are some of the differences in this book than my previous ones.

My mother thought it was healthy from time to time to talk about death. One time we were on an airplane together and she said (this is about five years before she died) let’s write my obituary. At first I was taken back and I am so grateful today that we did that so we SAT there together and she talked about the things that were really important to her. I wrote down all the bullet points and I kept a copy. Five years later … On November First, All Saints Day, my mother died. I was so grateful that I had more or less her obituary already written. It didn’t reflect my thoughts about her life; it reflected her thoughts. It defined her essence of who she was.

She had also sent my brother and my sister and I copies of her living will. That was extremely helpful because at the time of her death, you’re under stress and when somebody has been so thoughtful to have these things available to you it takes away a lot of that pain and grief that you’re already going through.

My mother used to say we’re all going to die. It’s a matter of when. So live rightly. That’s really the bottom line of the Buddhist teachings.

When the Buddhist monks come here and build that beautiful mandala they spend a week creating an art form that’s magnificent. Each of those art pieces reflects something very spiritual and the Buddhist traditions and I don’t know if you’ve seen the monks are painstakingly building them and Allah for weeks and then at the end they have a ceremony where they sweep it up and that’s the impermanence of life and that’s in their tradition to teach us impermanence now.

When my mother died, in her Bible she not only had beautiful little writings that she left all of us but she had been clipping out for probably years from magazines and newspapers things that really meant something to her that really reflected her thoughts on life. So again when i was planning her funeral service, I went to her Bible and i was able to create this wonderful booklet that I passed out at the memorial service celebrating the life of my mother, Laura Brockway and I had pictures of her in the back of all the things she did in her life but more importantly I could give this to everyone who attended the service – things that were in her Bible that she’d saved for years that meant something; that reflected who she was. I’m just going to read a few. There’s about twenty. I’m only going to read a few of them, but it’ll give you an essence of who she was.

So she wrote to us. She said, “To my precious wonderful family”. It was in her handwriting and then there was this poem,  “A Mother’s Felt Farewell to her Children”:

When I must leave you for a little while (and she underlines this part)

please do not grieve and shed wild tears

and hug your sorrow to you through the years,

but start out bravely with a gallant smile

and for my sake and in my name

live on and do all things the same.

Feed not your loneliness on empty days,

but feel each waking hour in useful ways.

Reach out your hand in comfort and in cheer

and I in turn will come for you and hold you near

and never never be afraid to die

for i am waiting for you in the sky.

i found that in her Bible and then underneath that she put “You were all the love and pride and happiness of my life.  You are the wind beneath my wings. I love you, Mom.”

And so my brother and sister and I went through all these beautiful things, ever close in mind and heart. All these beautiful things that she left us, we were able to put them in this booklet.

Here’s another one I think is so beautiful.

Ever close in mind and heart, no further away than a picture or a smile or remembered phrase our loved ones living memory so close in so many ways, for how often does a sunset bring histology thoughts to mind of moments that our loved ones shared and days now left behind; how often has a flower or a crystal autumn sky brought golden recollections of happy days gone by.

Yes, memory has a magic way of keeping loved ones near. Ever close in mind and heart are the ones we hold most dear.

Then she had a neighbor named Marsha Climate and she was her neighbor for years; she lived across the street from my mother in Richland, Washington. So I put this tribute to my mother in her memorial. It was written by Marsha and it says anyone who knows Laura Brockway also knows the meaning of true love. Laura is more than a neighbor and a friend. She belongs among that special class of people whose goodness transcends human understanding. Those who know Laura well are amazed at her gentle loving qualities that have enriched the lives of those close to her. Laura’s humility enables her to seek out what is best in others. She has that magical power to make others feel good about themselves, the greatest gift that can be bestowed upon a friend. God does work in mysterious ways as we are too often too concerned with the whys of life. As the ultimate judge in the courtroom of heaven, He gives us while on earth many trials and tribulations. Often the truly good are tested longer, but in the final verdict they are always the winners. There is no need for material proof to believe that heaven indeed exists, for Laura has already spent her time on earth being an angel, delivering God’s most magnificent gift, abounding love. Heaven will always have a special place for angels like Laura.

So i was able to capture what I feel is the essence of my mother because she was kind enough to leave me those important articles and sayings and things about her life.

So I’m going to read a little bit from my book and then I will have some responses from people out in the audience as well, but this is my introduction. I’m only going to read a few pages. After I finished writing What is Love, a tiny voice said to me “What is death? They are so intertwined and each teaches us about life. A dear friend once said the three most important days of our lives are the day we are born, the day we figure out why we were born, and the day we die. Our divine purposes are as varied as human beings are unique. Perhaps one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves is if I die tomorrow, how will I be remembered? Your answer will teach you how to live.

Through this book, i hope you can find more meaning in your life by better understanding and accepting our inevitable transition into the next realm. Death has long been a taboo topic for people. We avoid it, we dance around it. We don’t really know what to say when someone dies. We are taught to believe funerals are depressing and loss of life is a tragedy. Death in our society is generally seen as a negative thing, rather than a continuation of a natural cycle that begins when we are born, intensifying as we become more emotionally and spiritually evolved. It comes to fruition when we die. This will always remain the great mystery. it is our personal faith that defines our feelings and thoughts about death. I believe that faith can grow as we open our hearts to gentleness, love and compassion. This openness prepares us for death and teaches us how to live today.

in this book you’ll find theories, beliefs, personal wisdom, experience-based knowledge and intuitive insights from almost a hundred and fifty people of various religious backgrounds, customs, and beliefs; from doctors and clergy to people who rarely talk about death and dying. Their diverse points of view present so many possibilities. It is my hope that just by reading through their responses, new doors of understanding will open for you in insights. A few weeks ago, we were reading from What is Death and talking and sharing about it and Gray Anderson brought up that he has done hundreds of funeral services and at the funeral services, people don’t talk about the house people lived in or how hard they worked or how much money they had in the bank. They talked about how loving they were, the kind of father they were, the type of friend that they were  to someone, their loving essence. This reminds me of my friend Lynn Erindale and her New Year’s resolution was always the same every year: May I be more loving this year than I was last year.

So I think that death teaches us how to live rightly. I’m going to read from Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. I read most of her materials before i wrote my book What is Death. She was really a pioneer of transitions. She was an amazing woman. She was an MD. She studied life and death and wrote many many books about it, but I this is one of my favorite passages from her. She has a great German accent – not that i’m going to try; i’ll try to do a little bit. Here we go.

Look forward to your transition. it’s the first time you’ll experience unconditional love. There will be all peace and love and all the nightmares in the turmoil you went through in your life will be like nothing when you make your transition. You are asked to think basically how much love you have been able to give and receive and how much service you have rendered and you will know every consequence of every deed, every thought and every word you have ever uttered. You see how many chances you have missed, but you also see how a nice act of kindness has touch hundreds of lives that you’re totally unaware of. So concentrate on love while you’re still around and teach your children early unconditional love. So remember – concentrate on love and look forward to the transition. It’s the most beautiful experience you can ever imagine.

Vios con Dios. Associations that I’m bringing in my program lined up for the valley to teach teachers to teach children how to be mindful and go within. Goldie Hawn recently spoke about that and in her speech she said when she was little, people would ask her what do you want to be when you grow up and she’d say I want to be happy and I don’t know what what you want to be when you grow up and she’d say I want to be happy.

I think we need to be happy. That’s a good choice and I think of my mother who went through so much adversity, for open-heart surgeries, she lost her son, she lost her beloved beloved husband and she was still happy. She said I have to make myself strong that life is for the living and you have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and still be loving and happy. She went through so much and so I have that forever image of her that lives on with me as I stand here today.

So we have people in the audience that were responders when I ask them what is death and I would like them to share with us. Haley can you begin please.






Thank you. Thank you. And Dorothy?

Death is a beginning. Not to just wish or hope, but to know that life goes on after physical death. In my nearly 40 years of practicing parapsychology, I have witnessed and experienced many paranormal life after life occurrences that confirmed the existence of the soul after the event we call death. The loving connection that we have with loved ones in this life continues to nourish, protect, and replenish those who are still on this plane. Opening our hearts and minds to the many realities that exist around gives one a sense of optimism, joy and lack of fear of the unknown. So death is a beginning, another path to go down, in this individual journey we call life.

I’d like to add, I think this is a very helpful portion also written by Michael: What we call death is simply endpoint of one cycle involved with the material realm. Think of the guitar string, when plucked it goes back and forth between two points, crossing the mid point each time. When the string finally becomes still, it is at rest. Life consists of not only one but many strings, vibrating to ever-changing chords. Death is when the strings settle down and exists simply as potential weight to once again be plucked. What story combinations will you tell?

Thank you and TJ.

Shiloh was my only child. In 1992, I fell asleep at the wheel and my best kid, that’s what I sometimes called her, 12 years old was killed. What is death? and I talked about what each of us thought and it was our opinion, we just went back to be with the God we came from. She knew that death was not to be feared. She accepted it as truth that when she was done here on earth, she would leave. She wanted her ashes spread in the mountains. I miss her each day. and when I think of her I see the smile that she almost always had and I hear the laughter she would respond with.  I remember the fun we had backpacking, skiing, traveling and laughing with each other. I killed my daughter and I am 100 percentage responsible for her death.  I live with this knowledge. Yet I live my life to the fullest each day. I work at being the best and happiest person I can be. I do this because I know she would not want me to feel guilty., be unhappy or dwell in remorse. She sometimes called me my best dad,

My father never spoke about death – ever. When Shiloh met death, my father opened up about it, wrote a living will, gave us power of attorney.and told us he wanted his ashes spread on the mountain where he lived.

Months after Shiloah died, I was in deep meditation, she came to me.  I said Shiloah I killed you. and she replied no you didn’t. Another mediation she said, Dad I’m a higher god.

Thank you Thank You Patricia

Death is a personal evolution and we continue to move grown for its source party simply a change in form

Thank you and Greg.

Min is under the section Christianity. in the back there’s a section on different religions and this one along with Cynthia’s is under Christianity. A classical Christian perspective on death typically refers the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The gospel of john is often quoted “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” In the epistle in Romans we read, “For if we have been united with Christ in death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” Yet the subject of death and life after death has always been a part of everyone’s human story since the beginning of history. And this Christian emphasis is not necessarily the story of Jesus but rather the story tellers of Jesus after Jesus’ death Professor Marcus Borg expresses concern with the over-emphasis, the over-emphasis, of the Christian afterlife as it distracts from the more essential teachings of Jesus. It can also be divisive creating distinctions between the believers and non-believers righteous and the unrighteous. Borg also reminds us that there’s nothing in the Lord’s prayer asking that God take us to heaven when we die rather it is stated, “Thy kingdom come Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Marcus Borg states that as a committed Christian, as a committed Christian, he is agnostic about the afterlife and clarifies agnostic precisely is one who simply does not know for certain Then he states what I do affirm is very simply when we die we do not die into nothingness, but we die into God. In other words of the Apostle Paul, we live unto the Lord we die to the Lord so whether we live or die we are the Lord’s. For me that is enough.

Thank you.

Another responder like Carl Kaiser in the book in tells us that when she was diagnosed with cancer it was ultimately a great gift to her and reminds me of Steve Jobs who of course all of you know recently died. Steve was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2004 and he knew he was going to die in a few years, and by the way, Steve Jobs was a Buddhist and after he learned that he was going to die, gave many inspiring talks in which he inserted some mention of death and its meaning. In his famous commencement speech that he gave at Stanford University and we read that together in Insights a few weeks ago, he said quote “Remembering that you’re going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose” and then he said, Steve said that he had learned long ago to live like everyday was his last but he said that once he knew his death was imminent he became even more committed to that idea. And here’s another quote i found of his. “When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like this: if you live each day as if it was your last, some day you’ll most certainly be right. It made an impression on me and since then, for the past 33 years i have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself if today were the last day of my life, what would I want to do? What I’m about to do today, is it something I really want? and whenever the answer has been no for far too many days in a row, i need to change something.” Wise person.

So i will end by reading how I end my book on page 162. and i leave you with my sincerest wishes that 1.You realize how precious life is and treasure every moment of your life and those you love. 2. We learn that love never dies and that often we can be closer to someone after they die than while they were physically present and 3. You strengthen your heart by the repeated exercise of loving and that you grow strong enough that you are willing to love completely even though you know how much you may suffer later by loss. For me, it is always better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all. Amen