Facing death sounds like such a morbid, taboo topic. Something we choose to not talk about. Rather ignore and wish away. We like to talk about life, opportunity, dreams and ideas. But somehow, death does not really fit into this conversation so well.
It is however the one thing that we all have in common. Put differently, the moment you took your first breath, you started dying. Yet, we never talk about it. We choose to not think about it. Still, death (or the denial of death) is one of the primary driving forces of everything you do in life…
The moment you took your first breath, you started dying.
Now before you choose to phone me up to see if i’m okay. Maybe some context is needed?
My grandmother passed away this week. She was an absolutely wonderful and delightful, inspirational person who personified love and grace in such an enormous way that, as children, we did not even understand it. We could only bask it it when we were around her. I cannot recall any memory of her which is even remotely negative in any way…
The last couple of years were not so pretty however. Illness stripped her of so much of who she was. It was difficult to see the grandma i grew up with. When i heard the news that she was finally freed from the confines that life has placed on her. More than sad, i was relieved.
Yesterday our family got together to celebrate her life. And, inevitably, face death. Not just her death, but our own. In western culture, death is not something to be considered or talked about. It is to hide behind the grandiose, hubris induced illusion of wanting to be immortal and living forever.
In our conversation, we discussed the effect of facing death and considering the reality of it. The result might not be so morbid as you might expect.
- You develop a very quick value for what life is about when considering the fact that life is in fact limited and not to be taken for granted.
- The effect is that you start to consider what is truly important. And what is not.
- Living in the “now” is suddenly much more comfortable. Normally life is lived in “yesterday” and “tomorrow”. Death removes those options and you are left with the moment you are in. Where you are. With the people who are with you.
- When hearing the wonderful stories people are telling as they recall memories of my gran when she was alive, you need to wonder what stories you want people will tell when they get together when you die. Then you wonder why they are not telling those stories right now, while you are alive. When do you become the person you want people to remember when you are gone?
- Your to-do list, number of twitter followers, Klout score, Google analytics, YouTube views, marketing plan, latest product, newest toy, or awesome business idea suddenly drops off the scale of things that are important.
- People close to you rise to the top of the “what’s important” list.
- Gratitude overwhelms you
When do you become the person you want people to remember when you are gone?
I find it fascinating that something so seemingly morbid and negative has the ability to draw so much good out of us. Maybe death is not as ugly as the selfish, emotional pain we feel when we miss someone. Maybe we should consider death on a daily basis to help us live life in a way that is worthy of the extravagantly unmerited blessing that life truly is. Maybe this post is just to say, Thank you Ouma, i love you. i will miss you
Great Post Iaan. The past few months this topic has come up quite often. Beginning of this year a guy I knew. ( he was good guy, always friendly, motivated. ) He was saving up for a new KTM.. on the Test Drive he lost control and died after he went under a car. He was 25. then again I was at a client where I had the odd experience of seeing a corpse of a white guy who was also driving the speed limit when a drunk went head on into his little “bakkie”. And I stood there seeing this and realised the “person” I see is actually not that person anymore.
This got me thinking about death. My condolences with your Grandma. I have no Grandparents left. My granddad died and short after that my mie-ma. After 65 years of marriage the thought of living without him must have gotten to her.
Anyway.. So if you sit and think about all this you realise that death is a sad time yes, but this is actually a time that we must be happy for the person as they are headed for a FAR better place than earth. This might be silly but I always think that crying is a little selfish cause we thinking about our heartache and not the person that passed away. That person isn’t dead.. oh no they are still very much alive and with us everywhere we go.. just not in the physical.
But losing a loved one makes you reflect on your life and where you are headed. And helps us realise to love more, do more of the stuff we set aside because “we dont have time now”. It reminds us to embrace life to the fullest. Just sad that sometimes the Rat Race catches up again and we then again forget what losing a loved one reminded us of.
Anyway.. My 2 cents. =)
Thanks for sharing this Janes. So true…
“Love more and do more of the things we set aside”
My morning tea never tasted this good….Thank you Iaan for sharing something we really all do seem to shy away from…death. Good to read this to start the day…and be grateful for so much we have in this life…and life itself. Waking up every day to experience a new day is a gift and privilege…so we need to make each day count. I’m sorry to hear about you Ouma, but so happy your memories and lessons from her can live on in you.
Thanks Moni! There is a great book on gratitude entitled “Today we are rich”. Have not read it, but the name says so much!
I seriously did not want to read this.. and am so thankful I did now. Thanks Iaan, I don’t like death, but this is a new and fresh perspective! Jammer om te hoor van jou Ouma..
I fully understand not wanting to read this. We were not made for death.
Baie waarheid in wat jy geskryf het Iaan – ironies is een persoon se dood vir baie ander n ‘wake up call’. Jammer om te hoor oor julle verlies .
My Gran also died a little while back, this post was great to read, meant alot
At the age of 30 I lost my first husband, 31, in a car accident. He left me behind with a newborn son and twin daughters aged 4. At the time, I thought we were invincible, nothing would ever happen to either of us. And then this hit me like a ton of bricks. I was lucky to find strength and to create a happy ending for myself and my children. Not many people are lucky like that, but I thank my every waking hour for the person that I have become, and for the person that walked in to my life and changed everything. Being able to appreciate the meaning of life and what we have, the love we share and what it means deeply, is hard to see when you haven’t had something stripped away from you suddenly. It is a bitter sweet event in that from death, I learnt to live, to love, to be true to yourself and those that you love. Embrace love and those around you, it could be your last few seconds that you breath.
Wow. Thank you for sharing your experience. So much wisdom in this.
My gran is my life….she raised me…today 86 years old…commenting from the kitchen…”but why don’t you google it dear”…maybe her evolving wisdom from having 6 children..24 grandchildren an 16 great gran children…grannies are earths wisdom wonderers…i cannot imagine life without her…my condolences to you and the fam. …may her wisdom live forever in your hearts..
Thanks so much for the comment. Yep, they are truly valuable!
This gets me thinking about the concept of a eulogy. Why is it that we only say the things that matter about someone when they are no longer around to hear it? I have a friend whose family have made ‘eulogies’ a common occurrence in their home. A birthday lunch always turns into a free-for-all of people blessing each other with their words – undoubtedly always a tear jerking session when someone is praised for the character that they embody, for the lives they live (As a side note, even if it’s not your birthday you get the same praise, hence the ‘free-for-all’ comment).
This got me thinking that this is something I really want for my family and friends:
That they will know that they already have become people I will remember, miss and will always learn from, people that I love, and that they will know why they are loved.
No regrets for not saying the things I would say to them if only given a second chance.
Seize the moment for a eulogy.
Thanks for the post Iaan. May your works always inspire people to LIVE.
That is a great idea! Should not share our biggest compliments with someone only after they are not there anymore. Thanks for sharing Kim
I love this idea Kim..