The Way You Think About Death Could Cost You Your Life
There is good reason to talk about death to make your life better.
The ways we avoid speaking about death and dying are as numerous as those that died in the Great Plague. Avoiding the obvious, that you and I are going to die, doesn’t make living easier it makes it harder. Let me explain why.
Consider this true story about how my mom taught my children about death. We’d send our kids each summer to spend a week with my mom and stepfather. After flying into the Boise airport our son and daughter had to be driven another hour to get to their final destination. Our children loved it because they had a place to play, fish, get dirty, explore and ride three-wheelers all around the property.
When my mom pulled into the garage the kids bolted out of the car doors anxious to greet mom’s two dogs. Yet, only one dog arrived with his tail wagging in appreciation of having young playmates to play with again. My daughter instantly said, “Grandma, where’s Wofus?” In reference to the dog that was missing.
My mom was caught off guard because she’d neglected to tell our children of Wofus’s death. She slowly said, “Well, uhh…, he ran off.” Something about the way mom answered the question didn’t feel right with either of our kids so they begin hammering their grandmother with a volley of questions.
Deeply concerned about the missing dog, our kids asked; “Where would he run off too? How long has he been gone? Have you gone looking for him? Do you think he’s hungry?” and lastly the big question, “Why don’t we go looking for him?”
Mom, willfully stuck to her story saying that Wofus had run off when in fact he had died. Twenty years later, not once did my mom offer to tell her adult grandchildren about the death of their dog. We kidded about this fact within my family but this is how mom dealt with death, she lied about it.
Talk of Death is Taboo
There’s a lot of people who are afraid to die so denying death is considered normal behavior by professional psychologists. Talking about death isn’t the norm either. Death appears to be a topic to avoid. That’s a problem.
How do avoidance, fear and even death affect life? I’d say rather directly. As a kid, I wanted to be a professional race car driver. You may ask why, and I will never be able to offer you any logical explanation beyond the idea that driving up to 130mph off-road in the dirt while trying to keep your vehicle in one piece —-sounded fun.
My dad didn’t think so, and as a teenager, he forbid any of my racing dreams. Of course, off-road racing was dangerous but it wasn’t like Formula One. Then, about 20% of the F-1 drivers died annually. Why would avoid anyone put themselves in such a situation of unnecessary risk? Interestingly, if you ask professional drivers at this level they’ll all tell you that they don’t think about it.
This is interesting, isn’t it? We have people living normal lives, whatever that means, not thinking or talking about death and we also have those taking life-threatening risks not thinking about death either. There’s a difference between the two stereotypes. Those engaged in life are stretching their limits, perhaps even their fears, to live and to be present.
Ignoring death doesn’t make it go away. Not talking about dying doesn’t make life better. I suggest that in talking about death there is nothing to fear. As you face your fears, doubts and uncertainties about how you will die you’ll find that living is more vibrant.
This might sound crazy to anyone who has allowed the conservative ways instead of engaging outside the norm, which includes facing fears and even death. Consider facing death from another perspective. If in facing your fears, it allows you to become more present instead of incessantly worried and concerned for “what if…” then you’re free. Free to live.
There’s a significant pattern to see from those who have or are facing death, they step into love. No, it’s not true for everyone. There are people that resist and struggle at the end most likely in the same way that they lived. But then again there are those who live in peace and love who find the same in death too.
Living Without Fear
If you think of death as another fear or even “the fear” it inhibits the way you live. I wonder if you can imagine the number of people who die only to realize that they didn’t live fully because of their fears? When released from their bodies, these souls suddenly become aware of the liberty and the true potential of living life. But when you’re dead it’s physically too late.
You don’t have to participate in death-defying acts to live. Further, you don’t need to pretend to talk about death comfortably if you’re not yet there. Living life without denial or resistance, especially regarding fear and death, will liberate you. If you’re really brave you won’t need to deny death instead you’ll face it. There is only love, even in death, and this one thought can change your life.