No Fear of Death

HUNTER WAINRIGHT - THE WAY

Hunter stood silent as the reality of death overcame him. Clenching his fists, he stared at Andvari’s body.

Andvari can’t be dead, he thought. He’s my friend. He wouldn’t hurt a fly. This isn’t supposed to happen.

Balder bent down, lifted the gnome from the crumpled ferns and laid him on a flat boulder.

Metamorphosis walked over and placed his hand on Andvari’s pale forehead, stroking the gnome’s silver hair. The sage knelt on one knee beside Andvari. He held the gnome’s lifeless hand and mumbled something under his breath.

The sage stood, turned to Balder and said, “Gather some dry wood. We shall return our loyal companion to the universe.”

While the half-orcs ran to gather wood, they  stood silently around Andvari’s lifeless body. Hunter felt grief, then anger, then fear, thinking, This isn’t what I bargained for. I could be killed myself. We need to turn around and get back to the safety of the ship. God, I feel like a coward. Eve will know I’m afraid. Morph promised me paradise, not hell.

“Morph,” he said, “we need to talk. Alone.”

The sage motioned with his hand, follow me, and he walked Hunter across the meadow. While they walked, Morph congratulated him on sparing the pirate’s life, using the sacred sword as intended, for defensive purposes, not offensive violence.

Hunter nodded, thank you.

Stopping in the knee-high deer grass, Morph asked, “My son, what is on your mind?”

Staring at the sage, his lips quivered. “I’m not ready to die at my age. I’m barely seventeen.”

With his two left hands, Morph touched his right arm.

HUNTER WAINRIGHT - THE WAY

“Please, calm down. It is time I share the fourth Secret of Time & Space with you.”

“How is another one of your Secrets going to help me?” Hunter asked, wiping the sweat from his forehead with his sleeve.

Morph patted him on the right shoulder, calming him down.

Feeling the sage’s positive energy, Hunter took a deep breath. “Sorry. Go ahead. Tell me your Secret.”

The sage grinned. “The fourth Secret is, ‘All things happen in perfect order.’”

“You’re telling me that Andvari’s death is part of some perfect order, a grand plan?”

“Yes. His death also confirms the second Secret of Time & Space, ‘Nothing happens by accident.’”

Hunter rubbed his sore left shoulder. “Accident or no accident, perfect order or not, I’m afraid to die in this strange place, away from home, without my family.”

“I understand your fear. But you have nothing to be afraid of. Death is your friend.”

“A friend? I visited my dying uncle in a San Francisco hospital last month. Sam has lung cancer, from smoking. He was in a lot of pain, on life support, fighting for his life. He told us that he just wanted to die, that he didn’t want to live any more. He was miserable.”  

“How sad, your Uncle Sam has lost his dignity.”

“What do you mean?”

“I can only imagine that he is emaciated, bed ridden, depressed, and feeling helpless.”

“Well, yes, but the doctors are doing their best to keep him alive, beat the cancer. My father keeps telling my uncle, ‘Stay strong,’ ‘Don’t leave us,’ ‘Fight for your life.’”

Morph shook his head in despair. “It is unfortunate that your society, your medical professionals, are trained to keep human beings alive at any cost, rather than allowing the dying to be comfortable, to die with dignity, to die when they choose to die.”

“America has the best doctors and surgeons in the world.”

“My son, according to your medical experts, doctors and nurses, death represents a total failure. Physicians and nurses are trained to keep people alive, no matter what the patient desires.”

“Are you talking about suicide?”

HUNTER WAINRIGHT - THE WAY

“Call it what you will, every creature has the right to die, and with dignity, when and where they wish. I have been told by previous Earth visitors that on your planet, death is a negative experience to friends and loved ones. If a dying person tells a relative or friend they wish to die, the response is, ‘Don’t say that,’ or ‘Please don’t leave me.’ Just like your father begged your suffering uncle, ‘Hang in there, don’t leave us.’ You have created a society where it is unacceptable to want to die; therefore, you cannot imagine anyone embracing death, actually wanting to die, looking forward to death, no matter what the person’s circumstances or physical condition.”

Hunter raised his hands in the air. “All your words of wisdom are not going to help me right now. I have a bad feeling about my decision to stay on Millennium. I need to go back. Now.”

“Anything you wish, my son. But first, I need you to understand death. You cannot understand it because you do not like thinking about it. Death scares you because you are unprepared.”

“Death is scary, but I’m not a coward.”

“Of course you are not a coward. You are simply unaware of the truth. As for your fear of death, you must never be afraid because there is nothing to be afraid of. Death is merely an illusion. Death is a door opened, not closed. You never really die. Life is eternal; you are immortal. Instead of dying, you simply change your form.”

The fog had lifted, allowing rays of hazy light to enter the forest clearing illuminating the blades of yellow deer grass. Hunter looked up at Charon Falls reaching for the blue sky, then turned and looked back at Andvari, lying peacefully on the boulder.

The sage said, “You must understand that Andvari was prepared for his new journey. He had no fear of death. His spirit, his soul, his Self, has been released from his Millennium body, like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon.”

“You mean, he’s gone to heaven?” Hunter asked.

“Heaven has nothing to do with Andvari’s view of death. Andvari has always lived in heaven.”

“What are you talking about?”

“We shall discuss heaven another time. Can you grasp the reality that life is eternal, that your physical body is not you?”

“I’m trying to understand,” Hunter said.

“Good,” the sage said. “Never be fearful of dying; there is nothing to be afraid of. Your personal energy, your divine spark, your Self, what you humans know as your soul, never dies.”

“Are you talking about my soul going to heaven, or maybe hell?” 

“I am always fascinated how you humans have become so obsessed with getting to heaven, and so fearful of hell. As I have promised, we shall discuss heaven and hell another time. Allow me to focus on death, the path of the soul, so you may understand your destiny, that all things happen in perfect order.”

Hunter listened to the sage while the half-orcs gather branches and twigs along the forest’s edge.

HUNTER WAINRIGHT - THE WAY

“My son, nothing in the universe is permanent. All life is ever-changing, forever and ever. You are your spirit. You are not your body; therefore, the passing of your physical body should be of no concern to you. More importantly, you cannot live life without embracing death. When you become a true spiritual being, an enlightened being, death shall no longer frighten you. I want you to remember one thing. You are not your body.”

“That doesn’t make sense. Of course I’m my body.”

“Allow me to give you the best possible example to help you understand you are not your body. You are spirit, first and foremost.”

Hunter nodded, go ahead, thinking, I can’t imagine the sage will be able to explain the mystery of death.

“Do you remember when you were in grade school?” Morph asked.

“Yes.”

“Can you remember how old you were when you realized you existed? When you were aware of your own, unique thoughts.”

“Hmmm. Probably five or six. Maybe younger.”

“Did you think like you do today. I am not talking about your intelligence, I’m talking about your awareness. That voice in your head that always talks to you.”

“I know what you mean. Yes, I still think the same as I did when I was in the first grade. Now that I think about it, I knew it was me. And, I still sound the same to myself, I mean, I have the same voice in my head.”

“Excellent. So, tell me, do you remember becoming a teenager?”

“Yes, of course. I was a lot older, and smarter.”

“And what was your body like?”

“Much larger. More mature. You know, a teenager.”

“And do you remember your body on your seventeenth birthday, just before you arrived on our planet?”

“Of course. What’s your point?”

“Before I make my point, imagine I showed you a photograph of you when you were one year old, six years old, ten years old, fifteen years old, and one of you now. Then I asked you, ‘Who are all these people?’ I’m sure you would answer, ‘That is me.’”

“That’s obvious,” Hunter said, smirking. “So what is the point?”

HUNTER WAINRIGHT - THE WAY

“My point is, you have been in many different bodies since the day you were born, but all those different bodies were the same you. All you. Therefore, you are not your body. You are spirit.”

Speechless, Hunter knew the sage had made a undeniable point that he could not argue with. He had been in many different bodies, and all those bodies were him. He remembered his thoughts, knowing it was him inside each different body. 

The sage said, “Although your body changes constantly, your spirit, essence and thought energy always remains the same.”

“Say that again?”

“For instance, take someone your grandfather’s age, who has been in many more bodies than you. He can still remember having the exact same thought awareness, the same spirit, being his unique Self, throughout his entire life.”

“Okay,” Hunter said. “You’ve convinced me that I’m not my body. That I’m spirit. So, why I’m afraid to die? Can you help me to stop being afraid?”

“Your fear of death, all your fears, shall disappear when you embrace spirituality as part of your journey down the Open Road, The Great Way. When you realize and accept that you are not your body, death shall no longer bother you. Another way of putting it is, you shall dwell in a place that death cannot enter.”

Hunter looked down at the swaying deer grass, biting his lower lip. He glanced at Morph and said, “I’m so sorry for acting like a coward.”

“Nonsense, my son. Your honesty has helped set you free. As you begin to understand yourself, you shall begin to understand the universe. When you experience peace within yourself, freedom within, you shall embrace death as part of your life. As we Utopians like to say, ‘It is a great daynight to die.’”

Hunter looked over his shoulder at Eve. She stared back at him across the clearing. The sage cleared his throat. “Now, let us turn around and get you back to the Skipbladnir, so you may return home to your family.”

Grabbing the front of Morph’s purple tunic, Hunter closed his eyes and said, “Wait.”

Letting go of the sage, he ran his fingers through his hair, wiping the sweat off his forehead. Taking a deep breath, he opened his eyes and looked up into the crimson haze.

Looking directly into Morph’s eyes, Hunter said, “I don’t want to go back. I need to keep going forward. I’m sorry for causing you problems.”

The sage nodded and said, “Our conversation has been a joy, not a problem.”

Morph turned and walked toward the group. Calming himself, Hunter followed the sage across the meadow, staring in awe at the raging waterfall and granite cliffs above him.

Rejoining his companions, Hunter stood next to Eve.

Balder lifted Andvari’s body, wrapped in white linen, from the boulder to the top of a wood pile. The wood logs, branches, twigs and dry grass had been stacked in a triangular pattern. Morph instructed the group to form a circle by holding hands.

Hunter stood between Idun and Eve. He reached out and held their hands. The swamp elve’s hairy hand felt cold and clammy. Eve’s hand felt warm and soft.

His heart beat increased as he squeezed the Epiphanite’s hand. She did not respond, her grip remained relaxed, limp.

HUNTER WAINRIGHT - THE WAY

Come on, Eve, he thought, squeeze my hand, please like me.

Without warning, the wood pile burst into flames. The red, yellow and blue flames created intense heat, but no one broke the circle. Hunter’s face felt hot, causing him to squint and look up into the Millennium sky. The smell of burning flesh and hair made his stomach upset. He felt like vomiting, but he controlled his gag reflex by holding his breath. His eyes watered as the belching black smoke swirled above the trees.

Eve began choking. Coughing, she gripped Hunter’s hand, tightly.

Andvari’s body soon incinerated, his gnomish bones turned to hot embers mixed with smoldering white ash.

Morph said, “All is well. Andvari has returned to the infinite cosmos. Our beloved friend lives on, forever.” 

The group dropped their hands when Morph announced, “Gather your supplies; we shall continue our journey.”

Turning to Balder, the sage said, “Make sure you retrieve Andvari’s ashes so we may give our beloved companion a proper burial on the Sea of Circles.”

The half-orc collected the gnome’s ashes in a black clay urn and kicked soil on the smoldering fire.

Hunter’s thoughts ran wild.

Calm down, Hunter, everything is going to be all right. You’re lucky Morph didn’t send you back to the ship. I hope Eve doesn’t disrespect me. I’m not a coward like she thinks I am. I kicked that hobgoblin’s ass. Maybe I should have killed that pirate, but when he spoke, I just couldn’t do it. I can’t believe Andvari is dead. Eve is beautiful, but is she worth dying for, here on Millennium, 200 million light years from home?

Morph gave the signal, move out.

The group followed the sage down the trail, through the grassy meadow, and into the heart of the Forest Primeval.

HUNTER WAINRIGHT - THE WAY

Under the panorama of the towering crater cliffs, filtered light penetrated the army of moss-covered conifer trees. The swamp elves scouted the winding Kukulcan Trail ahead. Watching for signs of another ambush, the half-orcs brought up the rear, looking for movement in the dark maze of twisted tree shadows.

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