If death were embraced and cherished in the same most do sleep – even though there is no guarantee of waking – this story of humanity would be a completely different experience, as our relationship to life’s process would be shifted entirely. For instead of fearing the unknown that awaits one on the other side of their dying, we would blissfully fall into it, thrilled like a child before Christmas morn to see what gifts each new incarnation of being would bring, just as we do now with every dawn that follows our nights slumber…
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How plain that death is only the phenomenon of the individual or class! Nature does not recognize it; she finds her own again under new forms without loss. Yet death is beautiful when seen to be a law, and not an accident. It is as common as life. Men die in Tartary, in Ethiopia, in England, in Wisconsin. And, after all, what portion of this so serene and living nature can be said to be alive? Do this year’s grasses and foliage outnumber all the past? Every blade in the field, every leaf in the forest, lays down its life in its season, as beautifully as it was taken up. It is the pastime of a full quarter of the year. Dead trees, sere leaves, dried grass and herbs—are not these a good part of our life? And what is that pride of our autumnal scenery but the hectic flush, the sallow and cadaverous countenance of vegetation? its painted throes, with the November air for canvas?
When we look over the fields we are not saddened because these particular flowers or grasses will wither; for the law of their death is the law of new life.
Will not the land be in good heart because the crops die down from year to year? The herbage cheerfully consents to bloom, and wither, and give place to a new. So it is with the human plant. We are partial and selfish when we lament the death of the individual, unless our plaint be a pæan to the departed soul, and a sigh, as the wind sighs over the fields, which no shrub interprets into its private grief.
One might as well go into mourning for every sere leaf; but the more innocent and wiser soul will snuff a fragrance in the gale of autumn, and congratulate Nature upon her health. ~Henry David Thoreau, letter to Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1842 March 11th