What delight is there in seeing the bleached bones,
Like gourds thrown away,
Dried and scattered in the autumn sun?
I can't even remember when I first pondered my own death; I imagine it was the death of a pet as a child that first spurred the thoughts. Now as I age, I search the obituaries for the names of friends or colleagues. I watch my mother-in-law, who is encased in a 95 year old body in which dementia is rapidly taking control. She is miserable, yet even she fights to continue to live. I've been trying to work with small endings lately, such as when something breaks or wears out, or when a friend moves or stops being interested in our relationship. These have become my "death" practices - to learn how to embrace and accept these lessons in impermanence. Sogyal Rinpoche wrote, "Death is like a mirror in which the true meaning of life is reflected." His words remind me that how I care for the people and things in my life matter, even if they are all like library books which must be returned some day.
The Bonfire card reminds me of the literal definition of nirvana - to extinguish. It is a Buddhist term that describes freedom from what binds us. The card itself suggests a release of tremendous energy that burns through any blocks to a wider perspective. Resistance just creates a bigger fuel source; it burns fiercely (and painfully) until we release what we grip so tightly. What is it I must let go of? I think it is the pain I see my husband and sister-in-law experience, as they deal with the slow process of the death of their mother. I can't protect them from it, and trying to do so may only exacerbate their grief. Better to let the bonfire of mourning cleanse them instead and support them through it.