What is remarkable about the painting by William Blake is that it depicts the whole death—one we rarely see. Death is depicted as it actually is, a naturally occurring, unfolding of events. In short, death is a process of letting go.

The woman in the lower third is either newly dead or perhaps dreaming. It’s hard to know which because she doesn’t look sick. Blake has painted her the way dying people can and sometime do appear—radiant. The small figure, lifted and carried away, could be the soul or spirit essence.

There are two horses in the picture. Both are in full stride. The person doing the lifting rides on one of them. The horses represent movement and release: the grace that underpins a whole death. There is mystery too. Who is the person in the background? His/her back is to us, not looking down but looking out and beyond the death event.

Still, the painting is not whole. Something is required for completion—a last element to make it whole.  That element is you, the viewer. Your awareness and willingness to be present is what makes death whole.

Is she dreaming or dead? When death is whole it's hard to tell the difference because there is none. One thing is certain, there is no evidence here of a long courageous battle. There is no evidence of disease or the drugs that manage dying. There is no denial of death. 

In the days of social media distraction, artificial intelligence and virtual reality,  today's death experience is less than whole. The opposite might be true—death is an experience of fragmentation, disconnected from life. Death does not feed life. Grief is prolonged and largely un-attended. 

Can you learn to die whole? The answer is yes. But the learning is has to come from dying. They are the only ones quealified to teach it.

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