For the last few years – since Christmas Eve 2012, I’ve thought about death. To avoid unnecessary dramatic suspense, no, I’m not suicidal and never have been. But that year, I had a physical injury that caused me to believe that I might end up in a wheel chair and never be able to walk again. All the places I ever wanted to visit and all of the things I ever wanted to do, literally flashed before my eyes. Then, I thought, I would have to go to those places or do all those things in a wheel chair. An optimist would say: at least you’re alive! But seriously, while you’re lying down in a hospital bed, unable to move your legs, that’s not what goes through your mind. Luckily for me, it was “nothing” and I was able to walk again rather quickly. As a reminder of this experience, I now wear a white thread around my right wrist and I never take it off. The white thread is a reminder of the hospital’s bracelet that I wore on that wrist, but more importantly, it’s a reminder of the promises I made to myself to live more “now” and stop procrastinating on so many things. It reminds me of my own mortality and that of those I love. It reminds me to say “yes” more often and instills a sense of urgency on the things we leave for later. However, as powerful as this event had been for me, I was yet to meet the ultimate agent of urgency…
Years ago, when I was a child, my god-father passed away which prompted my father to say to me: “When I die, I don’t want anyone to cry for me. I want people to throw a party and celebrate my life. To have a drink for me. And my body? Toss it in the woods to decompose and return to the earth while worms eat me.” As a kid, I didn’t quite understand that I would never see my god-father again or what my father was talking about. But somehow, I remembered his words, and unfortunately, those words came back to me recently.
Death didn’t wait for me
Last year, in October, my father passed away. I knew of his poor health at some point on my trip around the world, but I erroneously thought I had time to travel some more and make it to Colombia in time for Christmas to see him. Death didn’t wait for me. Upon hearing of his death, I didn’t know how to feel. We weren’t as close as we used to be, but he was still my father. The words he had told me years ago came rushing back as if he was telling them to me now. The more I thought about those words, the more I thought he was so right.
The dead, more than anyone, can appreciate life.
While I understand the benefits of grieving, I would challenge that there are various ways of doing so. Sure, the natural and common way to curl yourself into a ball and cry away the pain is one of them, but instead, I propose to not dwell on that too long. Honor them. Respect them, their wishes and the love they had for you. When someone loves you, they want the best for you; your happiness. No loved one in death would want you to spend the time you have left alive grieving for them. The dead, more than anyone, can appreciate life. Celebrate them through your life. At the same time, remember that there are other people who love you and they’re still here with you… alive. They deserve your time more than those who have passed.
Death can be thought of and prepared for mentally like many other things that happen to us unexpectedly. Sure, nothing really compares but bear with me. The more you think about the inevitability of death, the more you can prepare for it when it comes. Either for you or for someone you love. When a 98 year old grandma passes away, most people, deep down will feel something akin to “well… you know… she was 98. It was her time. She lived a good life.” Why can’t the same apply to someone younger?
Accepting death can be used as a kick in the ass; an agent of urgency for you to do things you were leaving for later
It is better to live a short life full of beautiful and wonderful things you wanted to do than a long, boring and dull life. Put simply, quality over quantity. We don’t know how much time we have. So jam pack your life and those around you with the best you can. Live your life the way you want. Make yourself happy. I’m proposing that thinking and accepting death can be used as a kick in the ass; an agent of urgency for you to do the things you were leaving for later. Do them now or plan for them soon.
Of course, I am not saying to be so reckless that you blow your savings because, shit, “I may die tomorrow.” Or worse, to do extremely selfish things that negatively impact those you love. That is not what I’m saying. There is a line. A balance between the many things that can be done now to fulfill you and those around you while still ensuring happiness in your future.
Never forget that. We are all dying. Period.
I have come to dislike the phrase “make time”. It is shit. It hides the reality that “time” can’t actually be made. Our time is finite. Ever so slightly, we are running out of time. Everyday. Never forget that. We are all dying. Period. How does that make you feel? It should make you want to live your life now and stop waiting. Take risks. Be the happiest person you can be, whatever that means to you. Spend time wisely. Don’t wait. Have a bucket list. Cross one item every year, maybe more.
Live, care and love now
Death should not be scary or sad. Let it be something you prepare for. Something you think about as the ultimate agent of urgency. Don’t wait until death touches someone in your family or friends’ circle to accept death is getting closer to you everyday. Live, care and love now. Celebrate the people you love while they’re alive, and I guarantee, it will be easier to celebrate them in death. Do what you need to do to avoid saying the following words with your last breath: I never got to…