Let’s be honest for a moment here. Would you want to sit down and have a conversation with me, if I wanted to chat about dying and share my thoughts on death with you?
Last week, I shared some of my favourite books, one of them being Thrive by Arianna Huffington. Perhaps somewhat oddly, my favourite section in the book is the section devoted to death. Arianna’s advice (in order to live a rich, full life) is to contemplate and converse about death… Which (if we’re being honest) is the exact opposite of what most of us do!
In the Western world, we don’t talk about death. We’ve removed it from our day to day lives. Our elderly are (with the best intentions) shipped off to retirement villages and the ill and dying are destined to spend their last days within the walls of hospitals and nursing homes.
We don’t talk about how we feel about the fact that death is perhaps the only common thread we all truly share. My Dad often jokes that the only two things that are certain in life are death and taxes. Hilarious, right? But (without jumping into a conversation on the latter) it’s true: We are all mortal. We are all going to die. No exceptions.
Yet, the paradox is that death is SO uncertain; who truly knows what happens when we die? And this is where things start to get fearful and uncomfortable – and I totally, totally get that – but what if we leaned into the uncertainty a little longer, embraced it even?
Because one thing I’ve come to realise about uncertainty, is that it holds immense possibility.
And what possibilities could death hold for us?
How about this: Accepting your unquestionable death is perhaps the fastest ways to amplify your potential and desire to LIVE. Without death, what does it even mean to be alive?
The people in my life who love without limits, they (mostly) are the ones who have said the most goodbyes – often unexpectedly and tragically.
Anyone who has spent time in the waiting room of an Intensive Care Unit (ICU), knows that there is nothing quite like it. That bridge between life and death? You can feel it. Being in the presence of people huddled together, completely cataclysmic over the potential loss of a loved one… It’s tragic and trying and transformative.
In the days after my brother’s motorcycle accident in 2012, he came tremendously close to death. And yet, I cannot deny that I felt at peace – that is truly the only way I can describe it – when it dawned on me that even if I weren’t to lose my brother right now, even if he made it through this (which he did – albeit with severe brain injuries), the day would still come when I’d have to say my final goodbyes. At some point, one of us would leave the other behind.
And that honestly relaxed me! When the only person who had been there from my earliest memory (besides my parents), was suddenly threatening to leave my life, it threw my own mortality in my face. And the mortality of those I loved the most.
We all felt it. Suddenly, my family and I were incessantly telling each other how much we loved one another. Our compassion was amplified, our senses heightened. Gratitude and generosity swelled to EPIC proportions.
Despite our own fears, all we wanted to do was GIVE. Food, time, space, money, love, hugs, a smile, an ‘I’m so sorry’ – anything.
Because with the shifted perspective that HEY, THIS IS YOUR LIFE AND IT’S HAPPENING NOW FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY SO YOU BETTER START LIVING IT, we can truly, truly come alive.
So what are my beliefs and thoughts on death?
I believe that losing a Grandparent is hard, but watching your parents lose their parents is harder. Since my bro’s accident, I seem to spend more time feeling anxious about the safety of my loved ones, yet at the same time, I feel more resolute about my own strength in the face of loss than ever before.
I believe in an afterlife. I believe in grief, ghosts and God and the possibility that Heaven and reincarnation are not mutually exclusive. 12 years ago, my best friend’s Dad passed away suddenly on the 11th of the month – she sees 11:11 on the clock almost every day. A sign he is still with her? Absolutely. Which brings me to…
I believe that those we’ve lost, stay with us forever. Not long before my 20th birthday, a friend of mine was tragically killed in a car accident. I dreamt about him frequently in the year or so after he died; these dreams felt so unbelievably real. Over time they became sparse, until they stopped altogether. And then recently while on holiday in Bali, there he was; in my dream, walking alongside me, as vivid as ever! He was so happy, content and calm. When I woke up, I rolled over and mentioned the dream to my boyfriend, who revealed that he’d actually known him too. We sat in bed and chatted about him, remembered him, felt his presence.
I believe in not shrinking away from those who are grieving. I believe that no matter how uncomfortable it may be (and it is), your presence (and probably a lasagne) in these times is vital.
But mostly, I have no idea! At the end of the day, what matters most is that I’m here to live and celebrate life (as are you!), so death really does deserve a seat at the table.
See, that wasn’t so bad. Let’s talk about it. I want to hear from you. Here are some questions; maybe you can contemplate these on your own, with your loved ones, or even in the comments below.
+ What do you think happens when we die?
+ Have you had a near death experience or know someone who has?
+ How does contemplating the end of your life make you feel?
+ What’s your earliest memory of death?
+ If you accepted death, how would you live?
+ How has loss transformed your life, or the lives of those around you?
+ What has death taught you?
+ What would it look like, to bring death to the table?