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Relationship with Death

Our childhood experiences and previous losses impact how we feel about death. Have you taken time to consider your relationship with death?

“We don’t live fully because we reject death.” – John D. Morgan

“Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it.” – Haruki Murakami

“Death is Nature’s way of saying ‘Your table is ready!’” – Robin Williams

There are as many ways to relate to death as there are ways to relate to living- it’s an individual choice after all. From philosophy to humor, from denial to taking part in “living funerals,” the human experience runs the gamut.

But chances are, unless we consciously change our way of thinking about death, we won’t change the way we feel about it.

We didn’t talk about aging, dying, and death in my family when I was younger. A high school classmate died of leukemia before graduation, and I still recall the deep impression that ritual of grief made as we mourned his loss with friends at his Catholic funeral. I contrast that with how we ‘handled’ my grandfather’s death: a phone call, my mom flew off to attend the service, she came back and we never mentioned it.

My dad’s mother died when I was in my 20s, and seeing her embalmed body at the funeral home was a huge shock! My image of her was of someone always in motion, and yet there she was looking as if she would get up and go bustle around the kitchen getting dinner ready. Such confusion!

Accompanying my father through his end of life process led me to solidify what I had been coming to awareness of over the previous decade: we are souls having a human experience.

My sense is that we are graced with the chance to inhabit these physical bodies for a certain span of time. To what extent we learn to love ourselves, and others, impacts how we feel about the end of that time. The trajectory of my life changed because of my dad’s willingness to share how a life full of purpose, then the experience of loss, aging and growing dependence, was at the same time a curse and a blessing.

I live my life more fully in the present, with less fear of the end. I hold close the ones that I love, and most importantly, seek to reach the highest possible expression of myself. When the end comes, I hope to meet it with grace.

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