No one lives forever. This is an unalterable fact that all adults understand. However, how many times a day do you sit and think about how your life will end? Once, twice, never?
Personally, I have begun to realize how fragile my existence is and how I should enjoy life to the fullest now instead of waiting for a tomorrow that may never come.
In this piece, we shall explore how balancing the knowledge that our lives will end with choosing to live well despite that knowledge equals a life well-lived.
Learning that Life Is Not Forever
In modern times, when humans are children, we do not understand how tenuous living is believing that nothing will end our existence. The belief that we will go on forever is adaptive as if we spent an enormous amount of time thinking of our deaths, we could not enjoy life to the fullest. We would forever be worried that anything we do may lead to our demise.
As children, we lost a pet or a grandparent teaching us that things and people do die. However, within ourselves, we allow the delusion that “death will never happen to me” reign.
Still, we have learned that life does not go on forever and although we try to avoid thinking about our own death, it is inevitable that we think about it.
Through the death of a pet or loved one, we have learned that life is not forever and that those left behind when we die, grieve.
The Completeness of Death
As humans age, we learn that death is not something that happens halfway. When a person dies, they are not partially dead, they are completely and irrevocably dead. For some this completeness is startling and unwanted.
Part of every human wants to believe that one can die and still return to watch over our relatives and friends. Whole religions build on the premise that one can die and return later. We have invented heaven, hell, and many other terms to describe escaping the inevitable end of our days because we fear not being alive.
Somewhere deep inside every human is the desperate need to never die but to continue in some way. Even Dante’s version of hell, embraced by many Christians as the end for evil people, seems comforting next to the idea that one day we will cease to exist.
The Inevitability of Death and the Fear it Brings
Nothing frightens humans more than the knowledge of our own mortality. We spend enormous amounts of money trying to keep our bodies young and hoping to stave off the inevitable. We have our faces altered, buy into “stay young longer” schemes and try our best to not show weakness as we age.
Yet, for all of us, there comes the day when we realize that we have more days behind us than ahead and begin to plan for death.
The fear of death is the most common terror shared by all humanity. We know what death looks like from attending the funerals of others, but somehow, we have always eluded thinking of our own mortality.
It is normal for humans to fear what we cannot explain or see. No one has ever truly died and returned to tell the rest of us about what it is like. We have so many myths about after death that we fear they are true and hope they are not.
Living Life Knowing We Will Die
After obtaining the certain knowledge that death will come, what do we do with it? Do we hide away to protect ourselves from accidents and disease? Do we buy up all the life insurance we can to make certain our families have money after our demise?
How do we live with the knowledge that we are going to die?
Here are four suggestions for enjoying the last days of your life no matter how old you are right now.
One: Leave a Legacy of Love. In youth, many of us play at love. We form relationships, enjoy them for a time, and too often, we discard them. To leave a legacy of love we must learn to accept others as they are and not try to change them to fit our needs. We must love who they are with all their flaws and failures because we are all human.
Two: Plan to Leave Your Mark on History. You do not need to write a well-known and popular novel to leave your mark on history. Writing a diary and filling its pages with life in your time will be invaluable to those who come after you. The Diary of Anne Frank is only one of the thousands of journals that have lived on well after their owner’s death to inspire and teach future progeny of your life and times. Writing a diary makes you a living breathing entity instead of just the name of someone who lived long ago.
Three: Live Life Like You Will Die Today. Slow down and enjoy nature and each other. Take time to smell flowers, enjoy a sunrise, and the sound of children romping on a playground. Sit outside with the children on warm summer nights and gaze at the magnificence of the stars above you. Leave all expectations behind you and enjoy life on life’s terms.
Four: Give Yourself Away. Take your children or grandchildren fishing and just enjoy being with them. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, hospital, or daycare center. Give others your love, understanding, compassion, passion, and enjoyment of life without expecting anything in return. Relish in the fact that you are alive today, and make sure others have a glimpse at your contentedness at being so.
Some Closing Thoughts
While to some writing about the end of life is morbid, it really is not. Death is one appointment we are not allowed to skip and are required to keep. However, death is a part of life that all must experience.
Even the universe will someday blink into darkness.
To not fear death is to accept that we are all mortal and living well while alive is the best way to live life to the fullest while we still can.
I challenge you to look for ways to improve your and other people’s lives. Relax and be happy with what you have and not continually worry about what you do not have.
Learn to enjoy your life as it is today, for as the saying goes, you are not getting out of life alive.
“We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk
“No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away.” ~ Terry Pratchett