There are some who like to suggest that death is simply another part of life-a passage to another realm of being. It is not to be feared, they say, since on the “other side”, there is Heaven, Paradise, Nirvana or a bunch of virgins. Those who literally whistle past the graveyard seem to neglect the fact that many of us die, not in peacefulness and tranquility, but in pain, both real and imagined; in fear; or sometimes in emotional agony and humiliation.
The four people who died in my family in the last 20 years or so died feeble, unable to take care of themselves, or with little dignity.
My father died of cancer, leaving us at half his normal body weight and laced with powerful drugs to help him avoid the agony his disease caused him. My grandmother died not remembering her name, Dementia having taken her memories and self-awareness. My mother died in severe pain, congestive heart failure causing enormous stress on her back and ribs. She, too, was drugged beyond recognition to help her pass comfortably.
Or was it to help her sons avoid the realities of her death?
Another, a terribly close friend, died violently on a train track in California, causing tremendous pain to his beautiful family.
This is to say nothing of those who are murdered, killed in car accidents, starved to death by poverty, stillborn or any of the other ways that people die.
If there is a God, why did he make the end of our lives so often the worst part? Why didn’t he make death like a cast party at the end of a successful play-a celebration of a life lived? Yeah, I know that’s what funerals are supposed to be for, but the deceased don’t get to participate in those, do they? They just sit in a box, decomposing, while we cry. And the whole Heaven thing, yeah, get back to me on that when you meet someone who can tell you about it.
We spend our lives struggling for money, power, love, acceptance and security. Yet regardless how much we achieve, we often die with none of it. Even those of us who die natural deaths often do so in a fetal position in a nursing home and are only discovered when the nurse comes in to change our diapers.
God’s plan? Really?
We are alive for as long as we can sustain ourselves, or as long as others decide we’re useful. Any belief otherwise is ignorant self-aggrandisement.
The only thing to live for is that those who come after have pleasant memories of us. They remember us for who we were and what we did.
My point? Don’t assume that death will come simply and easily. It likely won’t. There’s a really good chance that your last days will be miserable.
So don’t waste life. Do things that are unexpected. Take risks. Fail often. Those who come after you will judge you more on your courage to try than upon what you achieved.
If you want your life to have any meaning at all, that must be your gift to those who succeed you.