Does Thinking About Death Make Our Lives Better?

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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.

file6271270483575I 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?

Comments

  1. says

    I absolutely agree with you that we need to talk about death more, in order to accept it. Our society is phobic about death and it is often met with silent grief. Having experienced the loss of someone very close to me this year I have been thinking about this topic a lot. I have an article being published soon that addresses this and I will send you the link. I think it’s important to remember that grief is the price for having loved, and this needs to be embraced if we are to live honestly. Great post x

    • collette says

      Thanks Michaela. I think part of what makes grief so isolating is that generally people can’t cope with a person who is grieving. There seems to be a very definite time frame that you can publicly grieve (a matter of weeks, I think) and then it is expected that you carry on with your life. Two and half years after the loss of my Mum and I still think of her every day. I’d love for you to send me the link to the article when it’s published. x

  2. rachelfaithcox says

    Thinking about death, acknowledging my own mortality and that of those around me, has made me profoundly grateful. For all of life, not just the good bits. I think my smug settled arrogance about my ‘right to live’ began to unravel when, like you, I lost my Mum. Then I too, got sick and spent six years battling a neurological disease. I’m in remission now and I feel an extraordinarily heavy responsibility NOT TO FORGET how fortunate I am. Not to regress back into that numbed state of ignorance. Life is short,and precious, and beautiful. All the things. I want to experience all the things for as long as I can. To make it all count.
    My Mum’s been gone now for nine years. The loss of her is slowly morphing into an awareness of how tightly wrapped up in my identity she is. She is in my DNA, my thoughts, my rituals and and my remembrances. In some ways, she is more present with me now she is gone than when she shared this mortal coil with me. I miss her, yet I’m with her. I see her in my children, I hear her in my sister’s voice. And while I live, I live not just for myself, but also on her behalf. I never liked gardens before, but now I stop and notice them, for her. I tell her stories to my kids, I share her wisdom in my words. When I climb to the top of a hill or see the ocean around the bend in the road, it’s her that I whisper ‘just look at that!’ to.
    Acknowledging death and its power in life is a treasure I wish I could share with others. But no one wants to know. Not yet. Not until it is their turn to experience a visitation.

    • collette says

      It is amazing how deeply connected we are to our Mums. I agree, because of her loss I live more ferociously because her chance is gone. Facing our own mortality is frightening, but I think it is so important not to live numbly.

What are you thoughts?