Are you able to contemplate your death and the death of those close to you?

The immediate response was “no!” But as we and those we love age, the topic keeps presenting itself. Watching elderly parents, becoming aware of hereditary disabilities, comparing the media’s presentation of issues around the deaths of Terry Schiavo and the Pope all bring the fact of death to our attention. Perhaps the most difficult death is that of a child preceding its parents. One Friend is “able to contemplate” death but only with great reluctance and some emotional distress; however this has become easier since joining the meeting and experiencing prayer.

One way this focus on death—as in the intensity of response when one’s spouse had a heart attack—is a renewed awareness of the preciousness of life and the immediacy of relationships. Death invites us to see the simplicity of life and its priorities. We tend to take life for granted, but life is not a given and is not “forever”. In the presence of death we can renew our own gratitude for life.

Grief has its own rhythm and power and is out of our control. A caring physician helped one grieving mother come to a new place spiritually in caring for others. Being clear inwardly ourselves enables us to “show up” when others can be comforted by a loving, listening presence.

There are different components in contemplating our own death: settling our outward affairs, the fear of pain, parting with loved ones, unfinished business, and the actual process of death. Connie’s sessions, the experience of hospice sessions at McGregor Home, and working with patients in a nursing home have helped a great deal. There has been help in getting past the fear. The fear varies from anxiety to terror around the loss of control, pain, debility, and actual death.

Some find they can consider getting old and dying and can imagine preparing for it. But dealing with sudden, unexpected death is a different matter. We don’t always live now as if we are ready to go. We remind ourselves that how we live will probably influence how we die. We remember the advice from Connie’s workshop to keep our affairs in order (wills, living wills, medical powers of attorney, etc.), to clean up our messes as we go, to tend and repair relationships, and to live now the way we want to be remembered.

Return to Fourth Month 2005 Minutes