We spend so much of our life being afraid of death. We pretend we will live forever so we don’t make Advance Directives or Living Wills. We take all treatment options without asking important questions like “how much will this help?” We get upset when others talk of ending their life through assisted suicide or when issues of taking a person off of life support arise. We even take issue with not using a feeding tube when eating naturally diminishes as a person is in the dying process.
Our lives can be unhappy, dissatisfying, even hurtful yet we hold onto that misery rather than face change and the unknown. Even with most religions offering a belief in an after life, that being dead puts you in a “better” place, we hold tight to this, the only life that we know.
I see all of these reactions to dying and eventual death but what I generally don’t see is an enjoyment of the life we do have. We don’t want to die yet we aren't really enjoying the life we have. Life for most is like being a gerbil on a gerbil wheel: going round and round but not really appreciating or participating. Sure we go to work, eat, sleep, play a few too many video games, read a book or watch a movie, have our established routines and habits, but do we savor, really live, the life we have?
It tends to be not until our life is threatened with ending that some of us “stop to smell the roses” (pardon the cliché). For many of us even that wake up call is ignored and our precious limited time is spent pursuing often pointless treatments or denying the seriousness of our illness.
There are only two ways to die, fast or gradual. A fast death is sudden, no warning. We are alive one minute and dead the next. There is no time for regrets or change of thinking and/or behavior. Gradual death is the other way we die. A slower process that comes about through disease or simply old age. Because gradual death generally takes months, it offers us a last chance opportunity to live our life. The operative word here is live. To do, say, be, appreciate, speak, listen, make amends, to search our soul for what we hold near and dear to us about living and live it while we can.
I once heard the idea that we need to treat each day of our life as if it is our last. With that belief we would savor each moment. Not such a bad idea, I’d say.