Death Beckons . . . and Heals

“So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole, and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.” – Numbers 21:9

You are bone tired. You have the look of someone who wants to step into a warm bath but doesn’t have the energy to turn on the water. How can I help? I’ll give you what I have – a small card with these words, handwritten, and held in the arms of a papier-mâché puppet on my desk, it reads: “One of these days you’ll be dead.” I look at it every time I feel myself losing heart. “Facing the serpent” is what I call this practice. I call it facing the truth of my impermanent, fragile self and letting that reality flood the present with its inevitability.

He knew. That ancient Moses man, there in the desert, he knew that death is also the great healer, the leveler and author of empathy and compassion. We will all die: whether we will be transformed in the twinkling or disappear into the light, no one really knows, but in its inexorable force lies a connection between all us humans, past and future, that cannot help but breed love. We are all mortal together. I live in that. I am here now, connected to everything by this truth, doing what I can.


Cover me, O God, in the courage of an ordinary life. Let me imagine the children of tomorrow living under a blue and open sky. It doesn’t matter if they never know that it was my heart that broke, or how my bones ached to see their future. It is enough to see their tomorrow faces open and full of the sun.