Schwellenangst (noun) Origin: German | Fear of crossing a threshold to embark on something new.
ETYMOLOGY: From the German words Schwelle (threshold) + Angst (anxiety).
My dad passed in October and when I saw this word, it brought me back to his passing. It still causes angst in my heart along with the realization that I have embarked on a new journey. A journey that will no longer include my father or my mother.
In the U.S. death is viewed with angst, with fear, with trepidation, with not many positive words. All of these words are true, but more for the living than for the dying. Even the word passed is a euphemism that makes you think that the threshold is just something you walk through which makes the actual event that much more traumatic (for the living). Watching someone die is traumatic. Devastating.
The word also brought me back to my time in Nepal. In Nepal bodies are generally cremated. They are carried through the street (also generally) and brought to the sacred area where folks sit on one side of a river and 5-9 bodies would be laid to rest on the other side of the river and publicly and openly cremated. Families would gather on the other side of the river and watch the events. There would often be food and drink shared and people would come and go from the cremation area. Anyone could stand and watch or pass through this area. At first it was super odd to watch but also fascinating. Kids were playing nearby, monkeys begging for snacks, old people staring into the distance. Who knows what they were contemplating. There was sadness of course, but it was an expected event. Everyone lives and everyone dies.
I actually found it reassuring. Crossing the threshold is inevitable. The end is not necessarily the most important part of the journey. In Nepal, it was a reminder that we are all eventually smoke and ash. The trick for me is not to be smoke and ash during the years I am passing through right now. Here’s to the threshold! Enjoy.
“Life itself means to separate and to be reunited, to change form and condition, to die and to be reborn. It is to act and to cease, to wait and to rest, and then to begin acting again, but in a different way. And there are always new thresholds to cross: the threshold of summer and winter, of season or a year, of a month of a night; the thresholds of birth, adolescence, maturity and old age; the threshold of death and that of the afterlife — for those who believe in it.”