I’ve been pondering the subject of death lately. I know, “Way to bring everybody down, Anne. Isn’t it bad enough that it’s only Tuesday?”
So yeah. Death. Such a fun subject.
It’s on my mind today because my brother–you know, the one who saved me 12 years ago when I escaped from Scientology–is in end-stage congestive heart failure.
It’s a crappy situation for him, so yesterday he made the decision to have the doctor turn off his heart defibrillator. His pacemaker still works, but if his heart stops now, there won’t be the shock of the defibrillator kicking in. That’s how he wants it, so he can go peacefully.
I visited him yesterday at his home. He’s staying there until the end, with hospice coming to see him as needed.
It’s a sad time for the whole family. But for me, it’s a time when I’m struggling with allowing my emotions to come out.
In Scientology, death is viewed as just another part of a person’s “whole track” of trillions of years. You “pick up a body” when you’re born, then you drop it when you die and pick up another one. It’s similar to many Eastern religions in terms of past lives and reincarnation, but there’s a not-so-fabulous twist:
When a loved one dies and you experience grief, you’re not allowed to just go through it. You see, that grief is just a “restimulation” of a past-life grief that you have to get “run out” so that you don’t feel it anymore.
And in the Sea Org it’s taken to another level entirely. When you’re a Sea Org member it’s a crime to have “case on post”, which means expressing any emotion like grief or sympathy is viewed as criminal behavior.
Insane? You betcha.
I saw many instances where a Sea Org member would be notified that a parent died and wouldn’t be allowed to go to the funeral because they had a specific project they had to finish. After all, wasn’t this just another spiritual being dropping a body? They’d see them again in another lifetime for sure–right?
That type of programming created a sort of zombified state in me when it came to death.
I remember when my dad had a heart attack and I was at the Int Base. Obviously they wouldn’t let me leave to go see him in the hospital. Obviously. But I did get to talk to my mom on the phone because my production was up for the week. I’m not sure if I would have been able to talk to her otherwise. Actually, I’m pretty sure. Nope.
Anyway, I was speaking to mom and she said that my dad was given only a 20% chance of surviving but that he made it through the operation. Know what my response was? “Well, that’s great. He decided to stick around a little longer.”
My mother was shocked. “What?? Why would you say such a thing?”
I didn’t give her any sympathy, because in Scientology, “sympathy” is considered a lower-toned emotion, one that higher-level beings don’t show.
When I got out of Scientology and was living with my parents, I was there as my dad got sicker and sicker. I watched him deteriorate. I was sitting right next to him, holding his hand when he died. But I didn’t cry.
Until I did.
After leaving the hospital, my family went for a bite to eat at a local restaurant. We were all sitting around the table, just being there for each other.
The food came, and all of a sudden it hit me. I ran out of the restaurant and started heaving and wailing uncontrollably. My husband and my younger brother came out to be with me. They put their arms around me and just let me cry.
I ended up staying in bed for two days, crying, throwing up, and crying some more. My family just let me stay there and FEEL EMOTIONS. How novel.
My husband said, “It’s okay, honey, everyone grieves in their own way. Don’t be hard on yourself.”
Wow. What a concept.
So now, I’m feeling what I’m feeling and I’m getting through it. I have people around me who are here for me no matter what.
When my brother goes to sleep one day, his heart will just stop beating. He’ll finally be at peace. And I’ll be devastated for a while.
But I’ll experience it like a normal, grieving human being. And damn, that’s something to be grateful for.