“People living deeply have no fear of death.”
— Anaïs Nin
It’s not in our nature to have the control of our lives in someone else’s power. After all, we did, as a country, fight for independence. And individually, to this present moment, people are still fighting for the right to be free and to govern their lives according to how they see fit. There are very many things we can control in this life. What we eat, where we live, the religion we choose to embrace are all in our power to control. But death isn’t one of those things safely in our grip.
It is the furthest thing from our control how long we will live or how or when we will exit this life. But thinking about our mortality and being aware that death is not just a possibility, but a certainty, causes us to put everything about ourselves and about other people in perspective. Life begins to take on new meaning when the spotlight is on our mortality. It demands a sense of urgency about purpose and fulfillment and significance.
Being aware of death doesn’t have to be depressing. It isn’t meant to be a weight that tugs at our minds and pulls at our hearts until we are unable to function and manage our day to day lives. But it is an empowering thought. It forces us to face the reality of our existence and the certainty that one day that existence will be lacking in the world. Our mortality should energize us to focus on the things that really matter in the world. Our purpose and what we should be doing to fulfill it should be foremost in our minds.
Too many people deny the fact that death has rightful entry and access to their lives. Other people at the same time fear death’s rite of passage. Both ideas — denial and fear — are useless to the human mind. Denial is nagging at us always because we know it is there but we wish it weren’t. Fear keeps us pinned to a corner unable to make good on anything we’ve been asked to do. But death is not to be denied or feared. It is to be embraced and welcomed as if it were a close friend.
For those who really believe, death is not death, but it is an elevation of life. Life is supposed to get better and better as time goes on, or so people say. For those who live life in perspective and with a sense of urgency and faith, it does. Of course, we all would like to live forever, but we can’t. In fact, it’s really ignorant to think that we are going to just live right on. In the nearest cemetery to your house are hundreds of people who thought they were going to just keep on living. That’s all the proof you need to know that one day, a day of which you do not know, you will pass that way too.
The clock is ticking whether we wish it were or not. Every single day, every minute, every second is a beautiful gift. It is up to you to be open to all the possibilities and opportunities that life presents to you. Time doesn’t do anything else but keep moving. It never stops. It is on a forward progression for all of us. Eternity doesn’t abide in time. But we, mortal as we are, we do live in time. Time is all we have to accomplish all we ever wanted to accomplish. It’s up to us not to lose track of time because time will not lose track of us.
“Death is a splendid thing — a warfare accomplished” as George Bernard Shaw would say. The fundamental truth is that we’re alive for some time and we will die without any vote in the matter. This truth may make us sad, disappointed, even angry. We can run from this truth, or we can do the exact opposite. We can run to it and embrace it with love and warmth. It isn’t so much about knowing how to live, for few people really know how to do that right. It’s about knowing how to live fully, completely, excitedly, purposefully, and unapologetically doing whatever it is you are passionate about and called to do until the clock runs out.
And yes, the clock is going to run out at some point in your journey. It is up to you to determine to do everything you’ve been commissioned to do. It is in your control to make the most of your existence. You have the power to leave behind a much better world than you lived in, to fight for some important cause, to keep the spotlight on the things that matter to others. When the clock runs out at that divinely appointed time, you want to be so empty that death has nothing to take from you. And that, mortal as we are, is what it means to truly embrace and love both life and death.
“No one knows whether death, which people fear to be the greatest evil, may not be the greatest good.”