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Holidays are the perfect time to think about death

wreaths at cemetary
Reuters/Chris Wattie
Appreciate each day.
Published This article is more than 2 years old.

The following is an excerpt from Your Year for Change by Bronnie Ware. It was published by Hay House (October, 2014) and is available at all bookstores and online at www.hayhouse.com.

Growing up, I was exposed to life and death regularly. We had to help cows birth their babes at times or bottlefeed orphaned lambs. We saw animals killed before our eyes—cows, sheep, snakes, chickens, and sick horses. Back then, as a child, death was a finality that simply led to an animal decomposing. It didn’t occur to me to link it to the mythical heaven I was being taught about at school and in church.

I was also told that God was everywhere and, being raised in a religion that thrived on guilt, would often be relieved when I pulled back the curtains in my room to find that no one was there watching me.

Life has since taught me that heaven is not only for the dying, but is available to us now. Through meditation, I have experienced states that have been incredibly blissful and beyond the human day-to-day world. Yet such states are available to us even when we’re not meditating, by learning to become more present and grateful. Those moments of heightened awareness are there for us all, with overwhelming joy arriving from within.

Animals are, of course, capable of feeling fear and love. Yet the actual link between death in animals and death in humans didn’t really occur to me until the passing of my first patient. Until then, I’d had relatives die, but had been kept from it. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon in the society we live in. It doesn’t help anyone to deny death. It is time we faced it, in a positive way.

The subject of death, especially in modern life, terrifies most people. It may be fear of what is or is not beyond this life, or fear of the actual dying process. It can be a fear of having to deal with a subject of such depth. It is often a fear of facing the fact that life is indeed coming to a close, whether you have done everything you wanted to or not. It can be all of these for some people.

Death brings finality to this lifetime (whether you believe in future lifetimes or not). Denying this is something that we as a society have created, and it is to our detriment.

Let’s face it: You are going to die. I am going to die. We are all going to die! Rather than letting this fact be all about doom and gloom, though, you can use your acceptance of death to live a vastly better life. Use death as a tool for living.

You are not here forever. Every day of your life is a gift, even more so if it is a life with the freedom of good health. Either way, it is still a gift, one that will one day expire. Every day that you live is one day less of your life remaining. So why not make the most of this precious gift of time?

It is easy to assume that you will live with great health to a ripe old age, and then die peacefully in your sleep, wearing your favorite pajamas. It doesn’t work out this way for most people, however. No one wants to face the fact that they may not live past 60. They may not even live past 40. But this is the truth of life.

History has shown repeatedly that some of us die younger than others. It is not always “other people” either—strangers from families we do not know. It is us. Some people also experience long illness, so the freedom of healthy living can disappear unexpectedly and must be embraced while present.

So with this knowledge, what should you do?

Start creating the habit of counting your blessings for being alive today. Take ownership of your life. Shift your priorities. You are going to die! Understand this, and get excited about the gift of today. You are alive right now. Make the most of this incredible blessing of life and the gifts it brings.

In regard to the other fears associated with death, there are other positive things to consider: I have seen dying people beaming at something only they can see, with smiles so glorious that it is obvious they are completely joyous about where they are going to next. They have shown me repeatedly that there is something incredibly beautiful to look forward to. Here lies the idea of heaven, a place or state of love, acceptance, and pure bliss.

Knowing there is love beyond should dispel many fears, although the act of dying itself does terrify some people. Please be assured that the actual death process is quick. Your spirit is not extracted from your body as a tug-of-war game for ten days in a row. It is brief, so not at all worth being scared of. There is also love surrounding you, even if it seems like you are dying alone in this earthly world.

Talking about deep subjects means facing reality. Death does not have to be a scary topic. It may make you sad, to honestly consider that a loved one may not be visibly by your side for every day that is left in your lifetime. But doesn’t facing this fact make the time remaining together even more special?

This only leaves the other fear—realizing that there was so much more you intended to do, but now time is running out. So get on with it, friends! Make the most of living. Face your inevitable death. Then be grateful for life and your ability to make choices.

Your life is definitely worth celebrating. So until your time to depart arrives, I wish fear-free, honest living to you. Embrace your life. Be joyful. Be courageous.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

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