You're gonna die someday
Are you ready?
What a subject line, right!? Just what we ALL want to talk about - DEATH! I have to say - I was a little scared to write this one, but I promise - it’s not as heavy as it sounds. In fact, let’s LIFT the veil on this taboo topic.
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YOU’RE GONNA DIE SOMEDAY
Straight up. It’s gonna happen - no matter what we do to avoid or postpone it.
Talking about death is still pretty ‘voodoo’ for most of us. Death is the one thing we ALL have in common. And perhaps the ONLY thing we can be certain of. Yet - we don’t talk about it. It’s kind of weird, don’t you think?
It’s too bad really. I mean - if we could embrace this commonality + remove the fear that surrounds it, I feel like it would change a lot in our world. It just might bring us closer together.
Undoubtedly, one of the hardest parts of living longer is the reality that death becomes a more common occurrence. Grieving becomes something we have to cycle through. Over and over.
Some people have experienced an enormous amount of grief by the time they reach my age. I have been lucky compared to most. Very few of my closest friends + family members have passed during my lifetime thus far.
That said, death + grieving got up in my face last month when I lost a couple of people in my life. As I reflect back over the experience + the context of each of those stories, I feel there’s a lot to be learned + shared.
You may be much more experienced in grieving than I am or maybe you’ve been spared to a certain extent - like me. I definitely learn something every time someone passes - about them, about myself, about life. It really makes you stop + think about a lot of things.
You would think death brings finality + closure, but instead, it feels like it opens a new door.
Before I begin, I know the holidays are hard for a lot of people. I like to focus on the joy + magic of the season. But, that’s just not the reality for a lot of people. My sister is one of them. She has struggled with addiction her whole life. I always hold hope for a positive outcome + she has certainly had moments in life where she seemed almost happy. But, there’s no way to be sure because so much of addiction is shrouded in secrets + lies.
If you’ve ever loved an addict, you know what a roller coaster it is. There are special moments filled with hope + very dark moments filled with fear. You want so much to be able to help + yet, you can’t. There is simply nothing you can do to ‘fix’ it. And, often anything you try to do, ends up making things worse rather than better. It’s a slippery slope. It’s crazy-making + it’s painful.
I won’t get into the details, but Christmas Day, we were bracing ourselves for the fact that she might not make it + that it might be a very tragic ending. Those of us who love her so much were trying to come to terms with the fact that this could be the end. Could we live without her? Could we live with ourselves? Had we done enough? Was there anything else we could do?
These were the questions my family was grappling with while simultaneously ‘waiting’ for the other shoe to drop.
Of course, life never goes as expected. Turns out the ‘other shoe to drop’ was the sudden + unexpected passing of a good family friend. She was one of the last people you would expect to die of a major coronary event - alone at home. Her death was one of those things that took days to even accept. No one was prepared for that news or for life without her.
Meanwhile, my uncle went to the hospital for what was initially diagnosed as pneumonia. He was in + out of the hospital a couple times before things got progressively worse + his life ended a few days after the passing of our good friend. He passed while surrounded by his wife + all four of his adult children. So, while rather sudden, everyone had a chance to say goodbye.
As of this writing, my sister is still with us. It’s a miracle really. Meanwhile, two people that we never expected to die, did. It’s ironic. Right? While we were bracing ourselves for the inevitability of her death - we lost two others.
Life is funny that way. We are so certain we know the outcome + then we are reminded that we know nothing. Of course, that doesn’t mean we can’t learn something.
Here are a few life lessons that float to the top for me from these experiences. I hope they help you in your journey as well.
MY SISTER: I could probably write an entire book of lessons learned from my sister. But perhaps the most important lesson is to live in the now. It’s easy to think you can project exactly what will happen next based on repeated patterns + experiences + circumstances, but you simply can’t. The energy you pour into projecting + preparing for the ‘inevitable’ could be better spent right here. Right now. One day at a time.
Can you accept what is beyond your control?
MY FRIEND: Our good friend’s passing was a reminder that life is fragile + death is often unexpected. I learned so much from this woman - including the value of relationships + the villages + community you create around yourself. And, of course, any sudden passing makes you realize there are still gaps in your end-of-life planning.
How are you making it as easy as possible for the people who live beyond you?
MY UNCLE: The passing of my uncle made me realize the importance of our shared stories + the power of family. Listening to the stories his sisters shared about growing up together. The stories his kids shared about who he was + what he valued. This makes me want to be a better listener + a better storyteller. To find a story in every person I love.
Who will be with you as you pass? What stories will people remember about you?
Our culture wants us to avoid death - avoid talking about it - pretend it’s not there - fight against it. We make it weird + awkward to talk about. It’s no wonder so many of us are afraid of it!
And yet, it’s something we ALL experience + dread.
We could learn so much from each other if we would open up + share what might make death less daunting from our own perspective.
When you think about death (yours or someone you love), what is your greatest fear? Is it something you can mitigate with a little bit of planning + communication? Or is it something that is completely beyond your control?
These are questions I’ve been asking myself lately. And, while I don’t think we can really plan for death, I do think we can eliminate a lot of the fear by facing it now while we are very much alive.
You’re gonna die someday. Are you ready? If not, I encourage you to get started. You feel SO much better knowing you’re not leaving a ‘mess’ behind. Start with your phone. Who has your password? Do you have a list of important contacts for your family? Do you have your end-of-life documents in order? Anything hiding in your life you’d like to clear up now?
What would you regret if you were to die tomorrow? Why not do it or say it now?
Before you go - what is one thing you would share with our community of fellow readers that you have learned through the death of a loved one? Maybe a tip or something you know might make it easier for someone else?
My husband + I have been working the last few years on downsizing + simplifying things at our house. We have laid out our end-of-life plans (which constantly need updating). This year, our focus is cleaning up our ‘digital’ lives. Passwords. Accounts. Streamlining. Also, finding ways to talk more openly about all of this stuff with each other + with those most likely to be there at the end of our lives.
Communicating our wants, hopes, fears.
These are all things we can each tackle here + now to remove a lot of the angst + stress that comes from death - whether expected or unexpected. And, I think we owe it to ourselves + those we love to remove the ‘voodoo’ vibes we perpetuate + to treat death like the fact that it is, so we can live our lives with less fear + more connection.
Our biggest regrets come from things we didn’t do or didn’t say. So - let’s do them. Say them. NOW. You in?
See you next week?
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