Life, Death, and Tarot

According to what I’ve been reading about the tarot, there are infinite meanings to each deck, each spread, even each card depending on how it falls and how the reader reads it and what s/he reads into it. Such a lack of logic and unpermutability offends my sense of rightness (though it shouldn’t since in my own life I rebel against absolutes and allow myself to live however my personal wind blows).

If I ever do learn to use any of the decks, especially as they are supposed to be used — as a way to look inside oneself (at least that’s the impression I get for their true use) — I will need that intuition because some of the instruction booklets that come with a few of the more esoteric decks are written in Italian. Online translation programs help, but not when, as in one case, the booklet is written in an archaic version of the language that no one seems able to interpret. Too bad — it’s a lovely deck, with beautiful imagery, and all sorts of mystical symbols on the cards that are missing from other such decks. In another deck with an Italian instruction book, the suits are completely unfamiliar (lasers and scarabs. light and the void.) And one deck has an additional suit, which makes for an unwieldy stack of cards.

I’ve been spreading out the decks themselves, instead of the individual cards, to see if I can learn anything about the brother who collected them. I know he was interested in a world of things, both practical and mystical, and yet, since he was homeless, I have to wonder if he ever got a chance to use any of the things he collected, or if they were all for a future he never got to live.

The timing is right to be thinking about him — next month, it will be two years since he died. It’s not just his death that gives me pause, but that the death of this homeless man was instrumental in my gaining a home. (A change in my attitude, perhaps, from never wanting to own a house to thinking it would be a good idea, from believing it was impossible, to finding a way to make it work.) And then there is the age difference I mentioned a few days ago: growing up, he was always older and more knowledgeable, and no matter how old I got, there he was . . . a year older, too.

Well, he’s not getting any older, and I am. I’ve now lived a year longer than he did, and knowing that I caught up to him and beyond brings me no comfort.

Oddly, though, he does. Bring me comfort, I mean. Despite my being ambivalent about what if anything besides energy survives after death, I sometimes sense that he is watching out for me as he wanted to do in life but never quite managed. Obviously, I have no way of knowing whether it’s true or not, but this feeling allows me to live fearlessly in a house by myself.

It’s hard to know the truth of oneself, let alone another person, but here I am, moving the tarot decks around, trying to see . . . something. This is the second time I’ve done this — the first time was a couple of years ago when I first got the cards. Maybe this time — or the next — will bring enlightenment. I hope so. It would certainly be easier than actually learning how to use the cards.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.


10 Responses to “Life, Death, and Tarot”

  1. cowgirlsue Says:

    Being homeless can be a great step toward enlightenment. But the spiritual path can be dangerous both mentally and physically. The faster you become aware the better your chance of surviving on this physical plane. Soo I get the feeling that your brother was a true spiritual person who’s act must be difficult to follow.

  2. Estragon Says:

    One thing I know for sure survives a person’s death is our memory of them. Maybe the space they take up in our minds is what “heaven” (or “hell”) really is. I don’t know. In any case, your brother IS watching out for you, to the extent that his memory is a part of you.

    I’m just back from a weekend away with a lady friend, and felt the memory of my late wife guiding most of it. I had hoped to introduce the lady to sailing on my small beach catamaran, but the wind was on the strong side for comfortably taking a newbie. My wife, having sailed many times with me, would have had a blast, but her voice guided me to err on the gentle side with the lady friend. As it turned out, we had a lovely few days just chatting and relaxing together. She apparently enjoyed it too, asking to stay an extra day. Someday, hopefully, a gentler wind will allow for the sailing.

    I know less than nothing about tarot, but perhaps the cards are a sort of mirror letting you see around the murkier corners of your mind? After all, there are very few things in life we can truly control. What we can control to some degree is our reactions to these seemingly random events/conditions (or cards).

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      For someone who claims to know less than nothing about tarot, you seem to know truth of it. That’s exactly what it’s supposed to do, let one see around the murkier corners of one’s mind. I think that’s one of the things stopping me from a full bore study of the subject — I’m not sure I want to know what’s hiding in the deep.

      A weekend at the lake with congenial company sounds wonderful, even without the sailing. I’m glad to know you both had a good time.

      It’s odd, but I never felt as if Jeff was watching over me, at least not as strongly as with my brother. But then, I had the idea he went back from whence he came, and left me here on my own, knowing I would be okay. Such strange things one things after such a loss.

  3. rami ungar the writer Says:

    All this research is going to lead to either one hell of a book, a nice museum, or you designing and perhaps even producing your very own deck.

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