Sacred Death

I love to notice how nature responds to our ponderings and lately, I’ve been pondering my death.

Five days ago we found the remains of a deer killed by coyotes at the foot of the mountain behind our house.  It was a fresh kill on top of fresh snow – guts spread out everywhere, the rib cage exposed and empty, almost all the muscle had been consumed and most all of its skin was torn off its one side.

Seeing this natural wonder deeply affected me.  It was the first I time have seen such ravage – just an hour or two after the coyotes had their feast. The hawks had already joined in as well.

We thought the neighbor had removed the carcass and we wanted to avoid it on our hikes so our dogs would not pick at it too, but yesterday, we found the remains further up the mountain: a full skull connected to its spine all the way to one leg.  There was only a bit of skin left around its hoof.

Even though I’ve done hospice volunteering and been with many as they have died… and even though I lived in Alaska and I am now in the mountains of North Carolina and am at least a bit ‘wild’, this incident showed me something that I haven’t witnessed quite in this way ~ the natural process of the life force moving between us in a very immediate intimate way.

It is such a stark contrast to our human experience these days ~ except, perhaps when a woman gives birth.  We shield ourselves from blood and guts in our every day existence and yet we watch it again and again on the media, TV and movies so we are viewing and interacting with pseudo processes instead of with life itself.

As strange as it seems, there was comfort in finding the carcass and a few days later only it’s straight skeletal remains.  It touched something raw and real and it humbled me.

I’ve been reading a lot of Stephen Jenkinson’s work and am deeply touched by his honesty and outspokenness on death. He gives me courage to express my concerns and deep grief. If you are interested, you may want to watch his film “Griefwalker” or read his newest book “Die Wise”.

“Drink enough of the sweet, strong mead of grief and love for being alive

and it isn’t long before you’re sending a trembling, life-soaked greeting out

to everything that came before you and to everything that will follow,

a kind of love letter to the Big Story.”

~ Stephen Jenkinson


Spiritual mentor Deb Vail will often become ecstatic over her dog, a simple flower, violin music or a southern Appalachian handcraft. Communing with a subtly boisterous forest brings her joy difficult to contain. Deb, the founder of Sacred Living, has created a service for those with serious illness to find comfort, ease and bit of wonderment.