I remember sitting there in a midweek service at my church as the speaker said “you young adults listen up… you don’t even think about death but you need to be aware it is real, it is very real.” I sat there as a young adult and wanted to yell.. heeey! not all of us.
I haven’t ever died and I haven’t personally stared death in the face myself. But I have walked with a lot of patients in their final days. I have been the one to listen and hear no heart beat. I have managed medications as someone is in their last hours… even minutes to make them comfortable. I have cleaned up bodies and placed them in body bags. I have wheeled them on that cold metal cart down to the morgue. I have mourned more than anyone at the age of 28 would want to for patients and their families when lives were in our definition “cut short”.
Oh and “The Fault in Our Stars”… yeah I sobbed like a baby but loved every minute of it.
Why are we as a culture so terrified of death? Why do we avoid talking about it? What about it is so terrifying to us? These are questions I’ve been mulling over and over. I personally am of the Christian faith so I have a confidence in a hope… but even some people I talk to who are of the same faith are utterly terrified of death.
Death is final.
In the last many months I’ve made it a point to research and truly figure out what dying well means. From the message at my church, to TED talks, speaking with others, and even some patients. After this thought process here is what I’ve come to conclude…
It is about LIVING WELL. And here are some things I’ve concluded about living well….
1. Make amends. Wherever you need to … make them. Leave nothing hanging. You’ll have a lot more peace and those that are left behind will have peace as well. Even if its 50 years old, call that person up. You’ll feel a lot better. And this is not just for the people who know death is upon them. This is for EVERYONE.
2. Make a bucket list, but don’t just make it DO IT. Enlist one or two people to help you accomplish it.
3. Figure out what you believe and why about life after death. Don’t just leave it for tomorrow, because you aren’t promised tomorrow.
4. Don’t live like you have tomorrow. Live like you have only today. That means doing the things that really need done, but also leaving what doesn’t. It means spending time with your loved ones and not just working to excel at work. Truly LIVE each day.
5. Have it written down somewhere what you want if you become unable to speak for yourself. Do you want your organs donated? Do you want to be a full code? Do you want extreme measures taken? Have the tough decisions made for your loved ones. Trust me, this is a lot easier for them in times of trouble.
6. If you do know your life is coming to an end sooner than you had hoped, write letters, make videos… leave things to help those who are grieving your absence. Let them know its okay to move on. Even if you don’t know this, start writing journals to those who matter most to you. Write them with plans to give them to them at a set time, but also know that that journal will be there if your life ends sooner than you expect it to.
7. Explore who you are. REALLY dig deep. Do some of those silly personality quizzes. Figure out your passions and what makes you tick. Learn to love the person you were created to be… because there is only one of you. There will only ever be one of you. Be the best you that there is.
8. Love deeply. Love hurts. It’s hard. But at the end of the day love as deep as you can so that at the end you know that you gave it your all.
9. REST. Don’t be afraid to take some breathers. To refresh yourself. Our bodies were made to require rest. Rest will help you to truly live.
10. Cut out the things that don’t matter. Focus on what really matters.
Friends, death is a hard topic. Not a fun conversation, but it is inevitable for every single one of us. Let us stop running away from it, but instead make the most of our run towards it, because that is in fact the direction we are all headed. Let us all make a point to not just live, but to live well. Live everyday with passion, purpose, integrity, and truth. Truly LIVE each day. Each moment.