I think about death a lot. But unlike funerals directors or healthcare workers, for me it’s mostly theoretical.
I’m fascinated by the dichotomy we live in: Knowing we aren’t immortal, yet mainly living in denial of it. It seems to me that if we really accepted death, we’d be able to talk about it with some degree of ease, as a matter of fact, and not just when it’s unavoidable.
Talk about it as in “When I die…” not “If I die…”.
Something occurred to me during a conversation at a recent Death Cafe I was at. It’s easy to contemplate death as an abstraction, but hey — death doesn’t happen for no reason. An event causes us to die. From disease to murder to injuries to accidents to dying in your sleep, and every variation in between.
Wondering what it might be that leads to your last breath hit me as an excellent entry into death acceptance, and a pretty decent wake up call.
It makes it real. It gives you a little shiver of fear, because that illness or freak accident or medical event could happen any day. People all over the world, in the next few hours, are going to either die unexpectedly or discover a pain or have an injury that will ultimately lead to their death.
I’m not trying to create anxiety, though it sure sounds like it. (I’m freaking myself out here, to be honest.) But I guess I sort of do want that. I’m getting a little impatient with complacency, and truly, we need a little fire in our lives to make sure we’re living them to the fullest.
I fantasize about a world where death is a more welcome topic for the table. Our fear isn’t protecting us, it’s preventing us. Preventing us from feeling all of our feelings and having richer experiences.
Another insight — we don’t even want to accept death as a concept because then we’d have to accept the actual deaths of the people we love, and who the heck wants to accept the worst thing that happens in life?
And that is part of why we suffer so greatly when someone dies. Because we want to insist that it’s wrong. We’ve gotten to a point where unless someone dies in their sleep at 97, we think their life was cut short.
Of course we want people to live long lives and be healthy and happy, but…
Um, given that the moment we’re born there are no guarantees, why do we still treat a long life as the given default, rather than a fortunate karmic gift?
My interest isn’t just philosophical, it’s preeminently practical. Life celebrations are hard (to impossible) if you believe the death was wrong (too young, too tragic, too accidental, too unseemly, too sad, too______).
But if we 100% got that death is just inevitable, that it’s a when not an if, and something in particular is going to come and be the cause — if we got that deep in our hearts and minds, we really might just be able to celebrate the life that was lived.
Sadness, mourning, grief — unavoidable.
But acceptance and “it’s the natural order of things, and one thing or another is going to be the cause” in there plays a big part.