This I Believe

Kelvin - Durham, North Carolina
Entered on January 18, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: carpe diem

Someone once told me that a sure sign you’re getting older is when you begin to peruse the obituary page with the same intensity as you would examine the sports page.

I’m beginning to believe there may be some truth to that.

As a matter of fact, I probably spend more time reading through the obituaries than I do on the box scores on the sports page.

Strange? Only on the surface of it.

For me, the allure of reading the obituaries has nothing to do with morbid thoughts of my own mortality — no, not at all — but rather with how much they can teach me.

I find it fascinating to read about an elderly gentleman who devoted his life to philanthropy or community service, or about a woman who took pride in her ability to grow a garden.

Although it usually saddens me, I also find it intriguing to read about a young person on the brink of success, whose life is cut short by some infirmity or tragedy.

And of course, there are those whose untimely deaths are the result of the senseless violence that continues to plague our society. For those, my sadness is tinged with anger.

Paying special attention to the age, race, occupation, interests and lives of those who have passed on has made me realize that death is the common denominator for all of us. In a world where judgments of our worth are rendered based on our gender, sexual orientation, race, economic status, political affiliation and a plethora of other factors, death links us all.

Death does not discriminate. Death is tolerant, broad, accepting and universal.

But that’s not all that inspires me to read the obituaries. I’m also learning a few things about how to live.

One of the things I’ve learned is not to view death as some detached and distant event that takes place apart from my life, but rather to regard it as a part of life, and something we’ll all have to face one day.

I’ve also learned that even though death eventually reaches all of us, it is not only sobering to contemplate one’s own death, it is also liberating.

It is liberating in the sense that the more comfortable I become with my own mortality, the more passionate I’ve become about life.

After all, I only have the power to control what is happening at this very moment, so why not do all that I can do right now to move forward with full expectation in the direction I’ve chosen for myself?

“You only live once, you better make the best of it,” the old folks used to say. For me, that phrase now holds more meaning than it ever has.