For most individuals, death is a very difficult subject to broach. Young people don’t even think about it, because “it isn’t going to happen to me.” Middle-aged people are so busy planning and doing and building that ending is a subject that rarely comes to mind, unless they lose a parent, or a contemporary suddenly dies. Us older people? Well, it’s generally too much of a reality, so we avoid it like the plague.
But, no matter your age, there is one certainty you can’t avoid. It’s the fact that none of us live forever. Life as we know it is not an eternal thing. There is a beginning and there is an end. Every once in a while, we tell jokes about it. Foremost among them is, “every morning I check my pulse, If it’s there, I go on and live the rest of the day.” Or, “My daily routine consists of getting up, going to the bathroom, drinking a cup of coffee, reading the newspaper, and checking the obituaries. If my name isn’t there, I figure I’ve been given another day.” But, for the most part, people deny death.
When I try to talk about it to my grandchildren, just as a matter of fact, they don’t want to hear about it. “Papa,” they say, “that’s not going to happen for a long time. We plan to have you around forever.” They’re wonderful words that are comforting to my heart, because it makes me feel that they want me around. Still, the subject is taboo to them, and to most other individuals. Yet, as you grow older, you can’t help but begin to experience hurts that you never had before, pains that don’t seem to go away as rapidly as they did years ago, a lack of energy, and a need for an extra push to start your day. On occasion, you find an excuse to end your day earlier than you planned and too often you wake to discover that you fell asleep while watching TV. They’re all indications that you’re growing older that happen to all of us. They can’t be helped or denied.
What you may not know, however, is that when you attempt to deny death in yourself, in others, or in the world at large, it takes a great deal more energy than you might believe. Because any reference to it, anything that may trigger the thought becomes something you have to avoid. Despite the fact that you are unaware of it, you wind up using a great deal of inner strength to build up walls that hide death from you. That takes time, energy and effort. The tragic fact is, one day that wall will collapse and all the energy, effort and time you devoted to building it will have been in vain.
Fortunately, there is another alternative. Don’t deny or avoid death. Accept it. Recognize it as a part of life and a lot of good things will occur. One, you will no longer have to run from, hide from, deny or avoid the subject. Two, it will enable you to plan, to make wills, to discuss that eventuality with your family and significant others you’ll leave behind. Three, all the energy you might otherwise have devoted toward denying death can be directed toward living life. I’d have you think of death like reading a magnificent book that you hate to see come to an end. All the while, you know that the more pages you turn, the more readily you’re going to reach the end. Accept that, and savor the book, every page and every word, just as you would savor a good meal or fond memories. That’s the way to live life. Turn those pages, but don’t speed read, or drift off in the middle of the page. Relish every word, every second, every minute. Make yourself aware that this is your life, and that you’re entitled to make your decisions to fulfill your dreams and to take advantage of every opportunity that’s afforded you.
As I’ve heard a friends’ son state on many occasions, “All you have is time and space.” You need to use them well. Don’t waste them. Take advantage of them. Do the things you promised yourself you’d do, or always wanted to do, but were too afraid to allocate the time or money to. Occupy your space so that people are aware of your presence and can value you. Most of all, don’t avoid death by running from it, or hiding from it, because, as I noted earlier, that’s a waste of time. Instead, recognize it, appreciate it, and know that before your time is up, you’re going to take advantage of every opportunity, good thought, healthy relationship, or positive interaction that comes your way.
It’s ironic, but by accepting that life is short and that it will eventually come to an end, you will literally make it last longer, and come to value and cherish it more than ever before. Remember that life in not forever, but by viewing death as part of life, you will improve its quality and make your life, as long as you have it, more meaningful, enjoyable and pleasant than you ever believed possible.