A Few Musings on Mortality
Let me start by saying that I love my life and I want it to keep going. I am in no rush to die.
Nevertheless, life and death are a matter of great importance to most of us. We get it- that we won’t live forever but what we rarely get is that you and I will also be one of those people, who don’t live forever. We absolutely understand when someone we know and love undergoes a devastating illness that they might die before their 30,000 days are up. Yet, it is much harder to experience that someone you love leaves the house healthy, fit, and full of life and they don’t return at the end of the day. Accidents of all kinds happen on a regular basis and people die. What is even harder to imagine is that it can happen to us – you and me.
Death and dying are trending, after being in the closet for decades. Not just the reality but the conversations. There are workshops and books, blogs and articles, webinars, and chat rooms, where we can go to discuss this significant end time of every life. But I don’t think we really get it until it touches us.
Sometimes when it comes close, we make bucket lists. What are things you want to do before you die. We reflect on what matters most and attend to our behaviour to see if it is in sync with our values. We get our affairs in order and go through the checklist of the right things to do so we don’t leave behind a disaster when our turn comes. Still, life and death seem like so much more than a bucket list.
There’s an old joke where a patient sues his doctor. It goes something like this.
“I’m suing you Doc. You told me I only had a year to live, and I blew all my money. Look at me. I’m still alive well past my expiry date and now I’m broke. This is your fault.”
I have always wondered about that deadline (pun intended) My specialist wouldn’t offer up his opinion on expiry dates. “Nobody knows for sure, “he claims. “I have seen it in my own patients in both directions. I say, live your best life now, while you can. Noone knows how long you will live. So, if you get a prediction, here is my advice:
Don’t believe it.
We all need to get our affairs in order no matter what.
But is there something we can do even though we don’t know our date of death. Something that won’t leave us poverty stricken because we went crazy. Or some way to come to grips with our mortality and not live-in constant angst.
I think there is. We don’t have to drain the bank, but we can assess our circumstances and see if we do have dreams and see if we can find the means to do it. Not waiting until we retire, but soon. Is it possible, without abdicating all our responsibilities?
But the thing that is really in front of me these days is this:
If I can remember that at some unexpected time, unbeknownst to me, I will be doing and or saying the very last thing I will ever do, how might I do it?
How would I use my words? Would I use them as gifts or weapons? And whatever I do, whether it is humble or revered by world standards, what quality of attention can I bring to that act, even something like doing my taxes. Most of our moments are ordinary ones. So, it makes sense to me to do my best with everything. And to become conscious of my words. Pause, before I say the first thing that comes to mind.
For example, someone I loved died. And a close family member’s last encounter with that person was a terrible argument. This became a painful human suffering.
Look, we are all humans and suffer from a variety of short comings along with all of our astounding traits. We can’t be at our best all the time. Who doesn’t say hurtful things now and then or do a careless job?? There is no cure for imperfection and who would want one. Human Being’s aren’t robots.
I am just thinking out loud here. One extraordinary thing we can do is to strengthen our attention skills so that we notice more. To cultivate a conscious awareness of myself and others so that I can activate more of my best self in this next decade. Especially my words.
I don’t want my final words with a loved one to be an argument. Sure, we can argue but I can develop some intellectual and emotional humility and avoid needing someone to agree with me, to prove I am right. I can say I’m sorry first. I can love more.
This is one of the things I appreciate about living for 75 years. There is so much that I can overlook now. So much I don’t need to prove. Many new things to learn. And I can relax and enjoy the ordinary every day ups and downs of life without agitation.
I can be more generous with my words. Who cares if I look a little foolish? We are all on our way out so for this last stretch I want to be say YES more and I am hoping to leave more useful and kind ripples than the other type. And when I don’t, I hope to catch myself faster and try again.
Life is short. So, let’s live fully while we are here and never take tomorrow for granted. Sing while there’s voice left and remember our friends and relations are GOLD.
Note 1:) This is a wake up poem by Marie Howe. She wrote this after her last dinner with her brother, before he died. The Last Time
Note 2:) This morning I cycled 30 k with two 11 year olds and one 12 year old. One of those boys is my grandson Rowan. They did a fundraiser for helping to build wells in South Sudan. I am so glad I said yes to the invitation and didn’t miss this memorable but ordinary moment chance.
Note 3:) It’s an amazing gift to have a chance to live. Enjoy it. Our minds are always dividing the day into what we like and what we don’t. A favourite yoga teacher suggests we adopt a more neutral position. There will always be both in our lives and we can resist becoming too attached to either. Enjoy someone else’s garden without having to own it. Wonder exists on every corner and we can point it out. That’s a lovely legacy.
Note 4:) Thanks for reading my musings today. I am so keen to reexamine how we can live fully, knowing we are mortal, and not throw sticks at our own hearts for what we consider our failures. Kindness may well be the medicine. As we treat others with kindness we may well treat our self with more kindness too. Nothing wrong with leaving a kindness legacy. Warmest wishes,Trudy
PS The banner photo was taken by Gottfried on the west coast of Canada. And the sweet bouquet by Sonya, on the east coast.