Up to today I have, more or less consciously, avoided writing about one subject. When I tell you what it is I’m almost certain that some of you will decide to stop reading. I think this could partly be because of the same reason I have been avoiding writing about it: it’s just too heavy. Too much. Too dark. Something that I feel for a lot of people is easier to pretend doesn’t exist. Easier to store away inside ourselves in a place where we choose not to visit. Western society I think for sure has a tendency to let us collectively look the other way. But reality is that it’s part of life and how much we might live our lives pretending it doesn’t exist, it just does.
I want to write about death. I want to write about death today because I recently have found myself in a grieving process. So when I sat down this morning to write, this is what came up:
I have spent a large part of my life with a huge fear of death. I’m talking Humongous Proportions here. It’s just something that is part of my conditioning. Gradually over time I dared, in very small steps, to look at this fear a bit closer. I found out it had a lot, if not everything, to do with a fear of not having lived my life fully before I die. I think this is not uncommon to feel this way, perhaps you can relate to this feeling as well? Somehow I have this gigantic desire to make the absolute most of this life. The idea of wasting it is just something that feels unbearable to me. So as a result I had this huge fear of dying in what I would label as too soon.
Today I am leaning towards a different feeling about death but at the same time I realize very well that it is (too) easy to feel this way because I am, as far as I know, fully healthy right now. I have no idea of knowing if I would still feel this way in case I would find out that I am terminally ill, regardless of what age I would be. I have a hunch that there is a great possibility that I would feel differently.
My feeling today about my own death is that I will die the year, the day, the hour, the minute and the second the universe make it my time and that this is exactly the way it is meant to be. But again: so far it is very easy to have peace with that for myself because I am lucky to be healthy.
It naturally also makes me think of people in my life who have died or are terminal who in no way have lived an entire life (what even constitutes an entire life? I wonder as well) Also this makes it more difficult and quite frankly also controversial/upsetting I think in the eyes of many people who are facing death or people who have lost loved ones, right? Because how can I say about my colleague who died four days ago, age 44, that it somehow was his time? I really can’t and I struggle with this a lot. And yet at the same time, so far, I have not come up with something else. Because death is reality. It does not take into account that something is unfair or too soon or anything like that. It happens and is part of life and this is such a raw truth that it most of the time still feels unbearable to me and literally takes my breath away.
In nature, life and death co-exist naturally but it seems to me that many people rather would deny or defeat death somehow. Once again, western society sure has constructed a lot of ways to boost agelessness and many companies today aim to sell eternal youth. I like to see myself as part of nature, not as something/someone being separate of nature. So because of that, for myself, I take some comfort in feeling that death, including the timing of it, somehow also is nature’s way.
The philosopher and comic Emily Levine who started her 2018 TED talk How I Made Friends With Reality by announcing she had stage IV lung cancer (and has since passed) said:
I love being part of the cyclical rhythms of the universe. That’s what’s so extraordinary about life: it’s a cycle of generation, degeneration, regeneration.
“I” am just a collection of particles, that is arranged into this pattern, then will decompose and be available, all of its constituent parts, to nature, to reorganize into another pattern. To me, that is so exciting and it makes me even more grateful to be part of that process.
She also said:
I look at death now from the point of view of a German biologist, Andreas Weber, who looks at it as part of the gift economy.
You’re given this enormous gift, life, you enrich it as best as you can, and then you give it back.
I find it amazing that someone who was dying could stand on a stage in front of a huge audience and share this view of death (while at the same time having a lot of humor).
I have found myself in a grieving process these past days over the death of my colleague, together with colleagues in my team at work. It has been a rough couple of workdays where it became very obvious to me, once again, that everyone has her/his own relationship with death and grieving and the importance of giving each person space to be in their own process. Giving each other space to have different feelings on death and grieving and being accepting of all of these is vital to me. I feel grateful to be part of a team of sensitive people who have the ability to give each other this space while at the same time giving each other active and loving support. I think this is pretty rare in the world of business…
I don’t want to live my life denying death. I am sure that my view on death will change, as it has changed already over the years. I hope to still be writing many years from now on this, to me, important subject. It will be interesting to see how it changes. For now, I’m incredibly grateful for my health, my family and friends and being part of this universe. I feel a lot of life bubbling inside me; remaining aware of that and using it to illuminate the world in my own unique way for me is absolute key! So onwards I go, up and down and up again.
Thanks for reading! ♥
Photo: Stelios Kazaziz – unsplash.com