Death. It’s not easy, ever. I wish we could all live forever and for no one to experience loss. But that’s just not the way life works. Some people are gifted long and happy lives, and others are not. Some people’s lives are full and happy, but short; some are sad and short, some are long and sad. Whatever your combination the ending will always be the same. For all of us.
And only when people die do we reflect on the kind of life they had. Regret is part of grief. When we are in the throes of life, we don’t stop to consider how we will feel when death comes. Perhaps we should. But that’s not how life works. We are too busy living to be concerned with the business of death.
But I wonder, if death were more present in our lives, would we live fuller lives?
Loss is never easy to bear, we seem to always have so much living to do. Even when someone reaches the end of their life and they are elderly, happy, leaving behind a couple of generations or more – there will always be someone left behind who feels that they still had more living to do. Because living is our default. So to die is to disrupt that.
In the space of two months, three of my friends have lost a parent – two of them in this last week, in the space of two days. And my heart breaks for them. If you have known the pain of profound loss, you will know it forever, and every person who shares the experience will relive the pain each time someone experiences death.
I wonder if we make coping with death harder for ourselves by the fact that our culture does not permit death to be part of our lives. If we let the thought of death prevail we are accused of being morbid. But the truth for me is that it is only the thought of death that has inspired me to live – really live.
I’m extremely blessed to have had a fortunate life. Yet, only once I understood the true meaning of mortality did I understand the truth about living wholly. And living honestly. Living with honesty is what has brought full colour to what was already wonderful in my life.
When I talk about living with honesty, I’m not talking at a base-level, where you don’t lie or cheat, I’m talking about finding your truth and following it. Living honestly is living by what you feel and know is right for you, in your heart. Finding your truth, so that if all the peripherals of modern life were to fall away, you would be left with your truth and be wholly satisfied with it.
There is a blog I follow called Five Fairies and a Fella . Julia Watson is the author of this blog, and it chronicles her story of living with cancer. At 42 she was diagnosed with bowel cancer and has been told she is terminal, any treatment she has now is to prolong her life, not save it. Her honesty is staggering, it will take your breath away. No one more than this lady, understands how the influence of death can alter your view of life.
The cruel irony for Julia is that her life has been made profoundly richer as a result of the knowledge that she has limited time left on earth. She has had all these realisations, found her truth and achieved incredible things in a short time, because life barriers have been removed. Tragically, she has limited time to live by her truth and her new honesty. She generously shares her lessons in the hope that we can find our own truth and live richer lives for it, without the mortality clock ticking in our ears.
To my friends who have recently lost their parent, sit in your pain and honour the loss of your loved one. Your parent’s parting gift to you is the depth of love that makes your pain so hard to bear. But, while the pain will continue, it will help you find your truth, which will eventually add more colour to your life.
That is the cruel irony of death.
How does thinking about death make you feel?