I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately.
Let’s be honest: this past year has been a screaming reminder that death happens.
My friend wrote an excellent piece in Madison Magazine about green burials, end-of-life doulas and the way our culture approaches death (spoiler alert: not well), which really got me thinking philosophically about it all.
Then Easter week came (filled with constant, albeit celebratory, reminders of our impermanence here on Earth) and around that same time I:
- witnessed a first responder giving chest compressions to the victim of a fatal car accident on the median of I-80 (this is something you can never “unsee,” by the way)
- discovered someone associated with my former workplace passed away suddenly at age 45, leaving behind his wife and two children
- read the news of a tragic murder-suicide involving a high-performing athlete who grew up in our town, whose family is very well-respected and loved
Now, I have no intention to turn this into one of those “live life to its fullest” posts. We know this is important but some days we are tired, and living life to its fullest could very simply involve the couch, a good book, the tv, and a bowl of cookie butter ice cream (I may or may not be speaking from experience). We can live life to its fullest, but there will still be a mix of good and bad days.
I guess I’ve just been coming to terms with the fact that we do not get to choose how we die. We most likely won’t choose the time and place, either. It will happen when it’s supposed to happen. We have no control over this, but we do have control over how we choose to live life.
In a sense, we get to write our own story, our true obituary. Unfortunately, actual obituaries tend to be formulaic. As a journalism student, one of our first assignments was writing an obituary. They are known for being how you earn your keep at a newspaper. But every now and then, you read an obit that shines.
My beautiful and smart friend Megan, who did have a bit of time to prepare hers because cancer lets you have “opportunities” like that, has an obituary for the books. You really get a chance to know her character and her spirit. What she was passionate about. What she lived for.
Maybe we should all spend a little time preparing our obituary, because it might give us some clues to what we need to give ourselves a little extra push on. For instance, a few lines that I’d like to adjust: “She finally started that book she always dreamed of writing, but never finished,” “She had aspirations to travel more,” “She enjoyed running but never worked up the courage to sign up for a race longer than 5K.”
We don’t have to do big things, but we do need to push out of our comfort zone occasionally and accomplish those things that we’ve made into “someday” goals. Because we don’t know exactly how many somedays we have left.