I am sure I will need to continue to rewrite this piece as my understanding continues to evolve, but below are my thoughts on death as I've come to understand it at this point in my life. Most of this was inspired by Karina, what she taught, how she lived, and how she died.
Life is full of uncertainty. Anything can happen on any given day. Possibilities are unlimited, the world is chaos, and our view of it is incredibly limited. The only certainty that we have in our life is that we will, one day, die. Everyone and everything that has ever lived has died. It is the only guarantee that we have.
Yet, fear of death is one of the most powerful influences in our world. Stay young. Stay fit. Stay healthy. It's a trillion dollar industry, fighting back death. While I agree with the notion of living a healthy lifestyle, I think the motivation of staying healthy in order to avoid dying, the one true certainty in life, is backwards.
Take my fiancee Karina for example. The epitome of health. She didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, ate a clean diet, exercised regularly, drank lots of water, lived a natural and low-stress lifestyle, and minimized toxic exposure in every way possible. One day she was healthy, happy, and free, and 4 months later, cancer took her away from us.
And if it wasn’t cancer, it could have been a car crash, a surfing accident, or one of the infinite ways someone can die in this world. Living a healthy lifestyle does not fend off death; it makes life more pleasant and aligned while you are here. Which, don’t get me wrong, is still very worth pursuing. If it is your time to go, it is your time to go, and the universe will find a way to make it happen.
I’ll never forget a conversation I had with Karina years ago. I was jokingly asking her to promise that she would outlive me in our life together. Having seen what my father went through when my mom transitioned, I didn’t think I could survive that sort of loss myself. Seeing her as the healthy and vibrant person she was, I was feeling pretty good about that request.
Her response is now burned into my memory. Seeing the truth through my humor, she said, “I am not afraid to die. I am only afraid of what will happen to my loved ones if I do. You have to be okay without me.”
This is why I work so hard to be okay. I promised her I would.
Karina saw the value of death; she knew that it was just a part of the process of spiritual evolution. She maintained that stance all the way through her sickness, never allowing fear to ruin her precious time left on this earth. It was an extraordinary thing to see, someone who is walking slowly toward the end with no fear, only love, something that will inspire me to live for the rest of my life.
Ultimately, she did leave her body, early in the morning on February 13th of this year. She did it as we slept, moving through the transition on her own, as she would have wanted.
It is a unique experience, day by day, watching your life partner go through this process. Every ounce of my energy was dedicated to bringing her joy and comfort, reducing her suffering, and prolonging her life. Then, all of the sudden, in an acute moment, my life without her began. The intensity of that moment is indescribable.
As my grieving process unfolded, I was led to understand death the way she did. The way that inspired in her the courage to walk toward the end without fear. The way that allowed her to live fully, love unconditionally, and dedicate her life to the service of uplifting the world.
Below is my current understanding of death, and therefore life, as I have come to know it through my study and experience. It is an incomplete puzzle that I will forever be working on. I am not saying I am right and anyone else is wrong, and I fully expect some or many to disagree with what I share. This is just an interpretation of what Karina knew and what I am coming to understand. If whatever you believe in gives you peace and helps to limit the fear of death, stick with that.
So here we go:
There is a universal energy that I will call Spirit for the sake of this article, but can be interchanged with one of many terms from different religious and spiritual belief systems. In order to better understand itself, Spirit split into a fractal of itself, essentially projecting into infinite reflections so that it can better see itself as it forever expands. We, and everything we see, know, and experience in this life are fractals of Spirit.
Before my life as Stephen began, I existed in a non-physical reality with Spirit and chose to partially come into a body on this Earth, in this time, in order to evolve and expand as a universal creator. When I say only part of me comes here, I mean that I split in two (or maybe more) parts, one part coming into my physical body that you all know as Stephen, and the other part staying in the non-physical form from which I came. This non-physical part of me, I call my Highest Self, or Self.
We navigate this life together, the physical self and the non-physical Self. The Self is merely an extension of Spirit, pure Love vibration, and has no tolerance for negativity. Self has a momentum pulling ever upwards towards Love, Grace, Ease, Clarity, etc. The physical self is born in harmony with the Self, but over time is introduced to contrast. This contrast comes in the form of negativity and unpleasantness, basically things in life that don’t feel good.
Contrast is vital in our human experience, I believe it is the reason we choose to come here. The human experience provides the dark (contrast) so that we can better see the light (expansion). Our life is a never-ending process of experiencing contrast, recognizing it, and moving back into alignment.
We do this a lot. Lifetimes, over and over again. So when we die, the only thing that disappears is the self, the physical body with whatever ego, negativity, or unpleasantness that existed with it. The fears, doubts, anger, and insecurities all go away with death as your Self reabsorbs that part of it that was in your physical form. It is a blissful experience because Self is pure unconditional Love, and finally letting go of all the human contrast, I can imagine, is an amazing feeling. This seems to be supported by many near-death encounters, and it gives me comfort to know that Karina, who was in so much pain for so long, got to experience that relief and joy.
Then we do it again. And each cycle through, we grow and expand based on our free will and how much we decide to learn from the contrast we experience in life.
Those in our lives who we know as “old souls” are just those who have been at this process a bit longer. Karina, for example, I believe had such a strong understanding of this because her Self had spent many, many lifetimes working on her spiritual evolution. She came into this life with a higher understanding than most. She didn’t need intense trauma, like I did, to understand her spirituality. Her spiritual practice was, from the moment I met her to the moment she transitioned, the most important thing in her life.
There are some more evolved beings, I believe, that decide to come into this world in order to teach and elevate others. Looking back at what she did and how she did it, I see Karina as one of these beings. She came here to help us as much as she could and then left when her death would serve us in our next phase of growth.
Karina used to say, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. When the student is really ready, the teacher will disappear.” She appeared in my life shortly after my “rock bottom” moment after my mom passed and left at the time I was ready to sit in the fire with her and understand all she had been trying to teach me over the last 7 years. As she was to many, she played the role of my ultimate teacher, and through me and all those she touched, her teachings continue to uplift and inspire.
So, 8 months beyond the moment, I feel that she is with me more than ever. My human self surely misses her and sometimes forgets all of this and curses the world for a bit. But then I remember and find peace in knowing that she is still very much here. Before, she was limited to the confines of her body, but now, she is everywhere, with all of us all at once.
She shows me often. She guides my human self to the right places, the right people, at the right times to give me what I need in my life at that moment. She sends signs, synchronicities, and messages whenever they are needed. She helps me as I continue to work towards alignment with my Highest Self.
For the first time in my life, I can truly say that I am not afraid of death. It is liberating. In a way, I am looking forward to experiencing the one thing that all life gets to experience, the loving embrace back to Spirit. This release of fear I’ve held onto most of my life feels like an unclenching around my heart and an excitement for what I get to experience between this moment and that of my transition. It reminds me how little most things that we stress about actually matter and how awesome it is that we even get to be here.
It is for this that I am extraordinarily grateful. Grateful that my experience with her prepared me to be ready for this expansion in my life. Grateful for her example, showing me how to live a life of fun, humor, growth, and love. How wondrous may it all be as we all continue, Onwards and Upwards.
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