Death is inevitable, but we still take life for granted
We all know death comes to us all - regardless of wealth, status, creed or colour. Nevertheless, very few of us think about death until something serious happens to our health. Most of us fail to understand the unpredictability of death - we take for granted that we will wake up each morning, and carry on with life as usual. We behave as though we have all the time in the world and treat life with indifference and as a commodity to be used and disregarded or something to be endured with gritted teeth, bemoaning the constant ills and bad luck that each day brings us.
But we avoid talking about our death- we fear death probably because we believe it is something that will be painful and sad. Undoubtedly, fear is a big reason for this; we fear the unknown and death appears to encapsulate the unknown. But, we should consider that death can be enlightening and can, in fact, improve our life so much. But first -
Consider this scenario...
What if death sent his messenger to you and said "you only have one day/month/year to live", what would happen?
What would you do differently?
How would you behave to your loved ones and friends?
Would you change your priorities?
What are your unfulfilled dreams?
Suddenly, there would be much more urgency to your life, every second becomes of vital importance - not to be wasted! Things that you thought were low priority suddenly become critical. Even everyday activities such as walking or looking at trees become really important to you. You suddenly realise how much beauty there is all around you.
Your senses are on red alert; you notice every shade of colour, the hues of the different leaves of every plant and tree, and the smells all around you, hitherto insignificant become wonderful aromas! People who you take for granted, such as your loved ones become of immense importance and you suddenly feel guilty for all the wasted time arguing over unmemorable things with your nearest and dearest. If only, you had more time, you swear you'll never behave like that again!
But, why do we behave like this only when it is too late?? Why do we treat each day of our life as a disposable paper bag, used with indifference and then discarded without a second thought? And what should we do instead to avoid this panic of last-minute "living and appreciating life to the fullest?"
What I've learned from my near-death experiences
Like most people, I hadn't given death any thought up until my early 40s'. Until then I had lived a very healthy and danger-free life. To me, death was irrelevant. How utterly arrogant!
In the space of 18 months, I suffered 2 major heart attacks and a lightning bolt reminder of how fragile life is!
Waiting for an ambulance for over 40 minutes after my 2nd heart attack in 18 months is a perfect time to think about death and it certainly focuses the mind! I was fearful of death. Why? Because of my loved ones, I would leave behind; 3 vulnerable and young children and a wife - all the future celebrations I would miss such as birthdays, graduations, marriages etc., all the happy future memories. Life unfulfilled.
FOMO - Fear Of Missing Out
Also, there were so many things I still hadn't done or had put off, procrastination and being too risk-averse, being overly cautious due to a desire to fit in, and mistaken priorities - in such moments these become crystal clear!
I was determined to change if I survived that heart attack. How could I not be affected by such an event? It helped me to:
Reflect and re-prioritise what is important in my life
Understand the importance of being able to make the most of every opportunity
Ensure that each day I make sure there is some positivity and gratitude which I note down by journalling
Commitment to maintaining my health through regular exercise and good eating habits
Give me an appreciation of my fragility and ensure I spend my life only with people who enrich my life.
Use Death as your Life Coach...
What if you could use death as your metaphorical life coach? That sounds like an oxymoron, death as a life coach!! But bear with me, as a coach, death could really transform your life!
As with all good coaches, the death coach would ask you some pretty searching questions.
What are your priorities in life and why?
Are you making the most of opportunities in your life?
If you died tomorrow, what would be your biggest regrets?
Are you grateful for the life you have?
And to make sure you don't brush these answers under the carpet, Death will be your constant companion, not visible but he may give you a surprise visit any time! So you are advised to recognise and re-evaluate your answers to these questions on a regular basis! At least, once every few months.
Use your fear of death in a positive way to examine your life; every day counts and it's important to enjoy and make the most of every day, even if you have a bad day. Tomorrow will be better.
Death teaches us how precious life is and that you should be present each day and not on autopilot. Appreciate the myriad of gifts and treasures in your life -even in nature which is all around us such as blue skies, and birds singing. Learn to look up and see what is around you.
Showing gratitude and appreciation for life will ensure that you will not waste your days on trivial things and pettiness thereby ensuring you are leading a more fulfilled life.
Don't wait until death stares down at you to lead the life you desire and enjoy. Carpe Diem!