Originally on 5 Things I Learned – March 12, 2011
I think about death everyday. Seriously! It’s something I started doing as a teenager. I daydream about death-other persons as well as mine. The scenarios are unlikely but often a real possibility such as my entire family dying in one fell swoop either from a vehicular accident or a house fire/explosion. I’ve thought of friends committing suicide and being killed (foul play). I’ve thought about the death of people who are important to the people who are important to me. I think about how I could die tomorrow or soon. I know it seems morbid…but really it’s not. I’m not wishing for death, mine or anyone else’s though truthfully sometimes I get so involved in my daydreaming that the scenes that play out in my head bring me to tears. Why do it (again and again) if it brings such sadness… well because every time I do it, I learn something important about myself, my relationships and about life and living.
1) I realize how meaningful a person is to me.
We all know the saying ‘You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.’ Death is the ultimate ‘gone-ness.’ There’s no coming back from it… things that are left unsaid are unsaid, hurtful words we were never able to apologize for plague us who are alive, etc. Therapy, counseling and healing techniques for dealing with pain regarding a deceased loved one are corrective. And sadly more people do not get to fully heal from such a loss.
For someone like me who can be so ‘busy,’ it’s so easy for me to overlook the people in my life and how I feel about them. But when I think about them being gone, I remind myself that this person is important to me. Sometimes, I have even surprised myself with the intensity of the feeling of loss – I realize then that a certain person apparently meant so much more to me than I knew.
2) I am motivated to show that appreciation.
Gary Chapman in his book the 5 Languages of Love, talks about how we give and receive love differently. It is as if there is a filter saying this is how to love and this is what it feels like to be loved. The five languages of love are as follows: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. Because I am reminded how important someone is to me, I am motivated to cultivate my relationship with him/her by communicating my appreciation and love. In the end there are only two things I want the other person to know: he/s is special to me, that I love him/her.
It takes a lot of work to cultivate relationships but its rewards are incomparable.
3) I get to visualize how I will respond to such events in the future. If I don’t like it, I can work on it now.
What if I found out when exactly I would die? Would I be one of those people that rush to cram doing everything they left for later between now and when they would die? Would I be someone who recoiled into herself at the idea that I would be dying, pushing everyone away? (For a time, that was the image that popped into my head when I thought about my own death. I’m working on figuring out why that is so. So far I’ve realized it has something to do with my having to be strong, independent and my fear of connecting with others).
When I think about other people dying, I try to see how I would react. Would I breakdown at the thought of losing my whole family? Could I survive it if my best friends died? Would it matter to me if people that rubbed me the wrong way passed away?
4) I am prompted to take note of the little things. (Well it’s one of the things I’m working on)
Again, I tend to rush through my day, observing and taking note only of what seems useful. So sadly, I have missed out on the random things that color my world, that lift me up, that inspire me, that make me feel alive, that give me joy. I’m learning to be more present to my self in my day… It is in the little things-glancing at the floor and finding a 100 peso bill, the unexpected smile from the stranger you cross on the street, a man holding the door for you as you enter, the giggle of a young toddler, the vibrancy of the color of a flower…
5) I am reminded to be present today, to enjoy each moment of life, to live now.
A moment comes but once…other moments may be similar but each moment is unique, never to be experienced again. For as we experience each moment, we are changed. We can never experience experiences again…all we have is today to savor it and embed it in our memories.