No matter our differences, accomplishments or failures, how liberal or conservative our values, what religious or atheist belief we hold, science or logic we apply or denial we cling to, death is imminent. How we arrive at that moment is as varied as everything else in our life: whether by the hand of another, resisting with every ounce of one’s being against the pain and anguish of a disease, by one’s own hand or in peace surrounded by the love of others. Death — as the moment of birth — is our common denominator and, at the very least, the ultimate equalizer.
Inevitable as it is, it’s a subject seldom embraced within our culture. Unless we’re faced with death or experience the loss of a loved one, we seldom converse or ponder our own demise. It’s a rare circumstance that a conversation of death is openly welcomed. As much as we believe we know about death, it still contains an unknown — and like every other unknown we’ve encountered in life, it harbors an element of fear. Death is the greatest of the unknowns; it has no comparison, no recovery and no second chance. But as macabre as it may be portrayed, death itself is not our enemy. In fact, our avoidance of truly understanding death leaves us at a disadvantage in living life.
We’re given the gift of life, and as much as death seems to rob from us everything we have, it gives us the one thing in return that nothing else can. It immensely raises the value of life because it limits our living experience. Without death, it’s just a matter of time before every aspect of living would become repetitive and mundane, merely participating in our existence; not truly living. The timing of death may never seem fair. We may cry, pray and cast out anger to fight it, but without it living would lose its luster and immortality would eventually be an unending burden to bear.
Our culture glosses over death; it’s made impersonal and its veracity is tucked away with the very people fast approaching it, nervously ignored by most and left to be dealt with when we’re forced to in the hopefully distant future. While the younger generation perceives itself as invincible, giving little thought to death, the elder generation has a glimpse of its mortality. That glimpse is of a world without them. It can be heartbreaking to accept — and even with a strong conviction of an afterlife, seldom is the act of leaving life embraced. Fear is our impulsive response until we’re able to come to terms and submit ourselves emotionally and logically — by accepting the inevitable and coming to peace with it.
Death’s legacy is the act of bringing clarity and an order of importance to the moments, experiences and choices we make in life. It clearly forces us to recognize the love and gratitude in our life, as well as the regrets that with grace we may still be able to resolve.
Death forces a new depth of conscious awareness.
What we do between birth and death defines us — and how we define ourselves should always be through moral and ethical choices ruled by our conscience, never by default of mass consciousness or decree of others. Conscious choice will dictate the journey of good living. Conscious awareness is staying true to oneself, always realizing that choices have consequences, good or bad — and the ripple of those choices affect those we love, as well as others well beyond our circle of friends.
Comfort of mind is the fruit of conscious choice.
What we do when death approaches — whether we resist it to our last breath or welcome it without a struggle — is bound with dignity when we follow our conscience. It’s unfortunate that we can never be more in touch with life than when we grasp that it will be forever lost.
Rising to the occasion of death is clearly the most conscious experience in life, and with triumph over fear there’s a profound purity of love amongst everyone privy to this most sacred experience.