When I first started writing this series, the Death tarot card lined up exactly with my mother’s death. Isn’t that strange? Maybe that’s what kept me from continuing. It would certainly be more poetic than sheer laziness. After experiencing the death of someone so close to me, I started to have all kinds of feelings about death. Namely: What’s the big deal?*
It’s something we all do. It’s one of the only things we all have in common.
At times, having a dead mom feels like a big responsibility. No one assumes I have a dead parent, so when Toronto people ask me about my “family back home,” I have a decision to make: Answer vaguely, or make this person confront their own mortality? I usually do the former. Less time-consuming.
Hushed Tones and Heads Bowed
In some ways, it’s a cycle we live out with each 12 month spin of the wheel. You can’t have the darling buds of may without the spooky, skeletal, finger-like branches of October. But there’s a certain way we’re supposed to talk about death- with hushed tones and heads bowed. And none of that helped me. It wasn’t for me, the griever. It was for other people and their discomfort around the subject matter. I wanted to laugh. I wanted to feel every feeling enormously- including the joy of a palpable release. My mom never made choices for herself. She was always so obligated, so acutely aware of what she could do for other people. (I wrote a little more about her in The Empress entry.) When she got to leave her human body- something that had been such a burden for her- I was proud.
The Death Tarot Card
Enough about me and my dead mom. What do you think of me and my dead mom? Just a little gallows humour for you.
The death card in the major arcana always sparks two main reactions: mortals being frightened of it and mystics insisting it’s ACTUALLY NOT SCARY!
I think both reactions are flawed. One denies that death is a part of life, and one denies that we’re allowed to have feelings about it. Death, as I stated earlier, isn’t a big deal. But it is a major event. It sparks feelings of grief, trauma, and deep sorrow. These emotional tools are in our emotional toolkits, but they don’t come out much.
In a reading, I see this card as a rebirth. Something is slowly, organically, and beautifully coming to an end. This is bittersweet. These moments can give us our most revelatory thoughts. They make way for fresh life and new experiences. But they’re also hard.
In a COVID-era world, I’ve been encouraging people to mourn their losses. When the death card comes up, it can mean you’ve been powering through for too long. Sit in silence. Reflect on your feelings. Have a funeral for your expectations. The only way out is through.
Appropriately, this card is represented by the sign of Scorpio. Scorpio has the intensity of a fire sign with the emotional vocabulary of a water sign. Your Scorpio sun friend may frighten you- but they get shit done. That’s a Death personality right there. In what areas of your life do you need to clean out the cobwebs?
What Did I Learn?
I talk a big game about the death card and its positive implications. And I know if you’ve recently experienced a tragic and possibly unjust loss, you may not find “the beauty” in this moment. Nor should you. Fuck this blog entry. Go do something more worthy of your time.
With some perspective, here are the positive things that came from the most difficult loss I’ve experienced:
- I got to take stock of how many amazing people I have in my life.
- I got to share stories and pictures and memories with all the people who my mom had touched, despite always thinking herself average.
- I started to examine where I’m at, where I’d like to be, and what changes I need to make to get to the next level.
- I stopped being shy around, or “too cool for,” emotions. If an episode of Modern Family makes me cry, I welcome it.
- I stopped getting annoyed as easily (that one is a minor, imperceivable change because I used to get annoyed pretty darn easily.)
I saw that my mother dying, one of my top 5 worst fears, didn’t change much. I still feel her presence all the time. I knew her so well I can predict what shows she’d be watching these days, what we might be discussing on the phone, how she’d react if I sent her a certain meme or youtube clip. I still wish I had her here to do and say those things and to watch those shows, but she’s not gone. I carry her in my little invisible heart hammock, and she seems to like it there.
The death card is a bit scary. It’s also beautiful, transformative, and freeing. Think of flower bushes that grow best when pruned. I’ll leave you the best way I know how, with a quote from Ram Dass. I got this quote here.
If you’re in a state of transition and want to know what this death is making way for, I am happy to help! Check out my services section for more info.
Ram Dass on his Mother’s Death
My mother died in very early February of 1967, and I was at her hospital bedside. I had been sitting there quietly while she was sort of resting, I was just being spacious and aware, and noticing what was happening. As the relatives, doctors, and nurses came into the hospital room, one woman came in and said, “The doctors just told me there’s a new medication that we think will help,” and I just listened to the cheery tone of the nurse, realizing my mother was being surrounded by a conspiracy of denial.
At one point after this, when nobody was in the room, my mother turned to me and she said, “Rich, I think I’m gonna die,” and I said, “Yeah, I think so too.”
She asked, “What do you think it’s gonna be like, Rich?”
I said, “Well, you know, I don’t know of course, but I look at you and I can see your body disintegrating. It’s like a house burning, but I hear you inside of it, just being with me, and it seems to me the way you and I are connected isn’t really defined by the fact that this body is disintegrating, because you sound just like you’ve always sounded, and I feel like I’ve always felt… I think that the fact that you and I love each other, I guess I really believe that love transcends death.”
*When I say “what’s the big deal,” I am talking about the subject and concept of death in general. I am not trying to undermine or make light of traumatic loss.