An exploding planet viewed from space. Planet has light showing out between the cracked pieces that are coming apart.

Why You Should (Sometimes) Welcome Dying

This entry is part 33 of 33 in the series 99: a journey

Welcome to 99 – brought to you by, where I offer interfaith inspiration, mentoring, and support. I’m your host Andrew Chirch – Interfaith minister and spiritual coach for real people like you.

The idea for 99 comes from the Islamic teaching that there are 99 names for the divine, and each one has its own meaning.

Each week, we meet up for 9-minutes to explore teachings from ALL the world’s religions to help us make sense of our lives.

One of the things I’ve been learning lately is how to be a chaplain. If you’re not familiar with what a chaplain does, it’s a helping role. You’re there—usually employed by an institution—to provide spiritual care for folks.

My chaplain training happened in a hospital – a big trauma center.  I got to be with a lot of people who were either actively dying, or at least having one of the worst days of their life. … and so I learned some things — about myself— and about what people really want most at the end of their lives. 

This episode, we’re talking about the divine name, Ya Mumit which means literally “the one who brings death.”

Now before you click skip on the audio recording, or head over to Netflix because death is off limits, I want you to know that I’m a happy guy. I’m actually full of joy right now as I share this. And part of that reason is because of what I learned in that hospital.

Now, in the Islamic Sufi tradition, there are lots of matched pairs of words. Things like creator and sustainer, bringer of joy and bringer of sorrow, expansion and contraction… that sort of thing.

This is no different. Al Mumit is the one who brings death, and it’s part of a matched set with Al Muhyi – the one who brings life.

Before I go any further, I want to share this lovely tradition I learned about recently—some hospitals play a little snippet of Brahm’s lullaby over the intercom system every time a baby is born, no matter what else is happening at the time. When I heard about this tradition, my mind was blown.

Hospitals can be hard places – for patients, for loved ones, and also for staff. I imagine a nurse, exhausted from being yelled at and overworked. She’s just had a patient die – someone who she really liked and had looked forward to seeing every day. It’s the end of her shift and someone else is pressing their call button for the hundredth time that day, when over the intercom comes the sound – “Lull-a-bye, and good-night, dah dah dee-dah, da dah da..”

A reminder that amid all the bad news, there is *also* new life, new hope, and new wonder coming into this world. I imagine her taking a deep breath, wrapping her arms tightly around her chest, and finding some strength to head back in to see what her patient needs. 

Beginnings and endings. They go together. Why do we like one more than the other?

One of my favorite Hindu deities is Kali. Her name means “Time” and she is the great destroyer. Look up a picture of Kali—she looks really scary at first. Midnight blue in color, holding a severed head and wearing a skirt made out of severed demon arms! But here’s the funny thing… in the Hindu culture as I know it, Kali isn’t really considered evil. In fact, Kali is revered and worshipped because of what she makes possible. She does the things for us that we’re too afraid to do on our own.

 I think of her as kind of a living paper shredder. Anything I’m ready to give up and leave behind goes to Kali. She is fierce and fearless… unafraid to give herself fully to the task at hand.

I know that you’re probably not a big fan of dying. If that’s true, it’s certainly understandable. This week’s divine name, though, Al-Mumit, is an invitation to think about it in a different way. In our lives, we are constantly being born and also dying – constantly. The living cells that make up our bodies are constantly dying and being replaced by new ones.

Old habits, old loves, old fears… they have a way of dying away and making space for new loves, new jobs, new hopes, no?

Think of the favorite thing about your life right now.

Got it?

Now think of all the other things that had to go away so that your favorite thing could come into your life.

Think of the hardest thing you’ve ever experienced.

Got it?

Now your assignment this week, should you choose to accept it is to play connect the dots…. between that hardest or worst thing that ever happened to you, and something good in your life today.

I look forward to hearing about your journey! Seriously, drop me a line and tell me how you connected the dots and if you learned anything through that exercise.

See you soon. Until then, I’ll be dancing with Kali.

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