We had two caterpillars we found within days of each other. They ate strawberry leaves and flowers and crawled around contentedly for days.
Then they began to slow down a little, the time of change was steadily approaching.
One caterpillar began to violently contort itself, twisting and turning, writhing in seeming agony. While the other quietly crawled under a piece of bark with little fanfare.
I watched the caterpillar that fought and contorted itself for days. It's apparent pain made me ache inside. "I'm glad I don't have to metamorphosis, it appears to be painful!" I remarked on several occasions as I waited to see the skin split open and a chrysalis take the place of the old caterpillar skin. It never happened though. After days of twisting and turning it slowly came to rest and then dried up, never changing into what it was always destined to become.
Meanwhile, the other caterpillar which had quietly disappeared, never came back out. Fearing the worst, I peeked under the bark. There, attached secure and out of sight, is a chrysalis, inside of which a huge and life altering change is happening.
I was still thinking I was glad I wasn't a caterpillar when I finished reading Handling the Undead. All of the sudden I realized, I am that caterpillar. Crawling around I gather everything I need to complete this life, enter my chrysalis and become what I was always intended to be. So, when I reach that point where the outer must be released, shed away, will I be the caterpillar who twists and writhes in the agony of the unknown, or the one that accepts its condition and embraces the change it has prepared for in every physical sense?
The first one nullifies its own existence. What, after all, was the point of the eating, the crawling, and the pain of change, if in the end you fight it and die, giving up all claim to the future you might have had?
The second one, however, takes upon itself a new life, a rebirth. While that new life is as yet not understood, it is the purpose and fulfillment of the first, giving meaning to every struggle, hope, need, that was encountered in that first stage.
The pain we perceive in the ending of a phase and stepping out into the unknown is just that, perceived. If we let the pain overwhelm us with fear and turn away at the last moment in fear then we risk giving up the very thing for which we were made.
Even I have always seen death as a stepping away from the known and into the darkness of a new light. This isn't exactly what I feel now. I feel the place inside of me where the new is contained within the old. It has always been there, waiting quietly, preparing. The thing which I am, the thing which I will become and have always been, is alive in me now. I must nourish that, preparing to shed the old flesh in which it is growing more and more confined every moment. The pain of time grows tight within the flesh and it is then that the flesh must give way and free the spirit to be that which it was made to be.
(by the way, I'll post a review of Handling the Undead soon... How can I not after that read)