I believe in death. Not in the sense of being eager to take away life, my own or another’s, but as the natural corollary to life.
Death is the counterbalance to our days, the backdrop against which life has its vibrancy. Ask someone dealing with a life-threatening illness, and you will frequently find an enhanced appreciation of the life currently lived, an awareness of the preciousness of each moment.
I believe our culture does not deal with death very effectively. In many ways we treat death as if it was an enemy to be battled and defeated. And sometimes we do seem to rise above death…for a while.
I believe too many resources are allotted to sustaining existence, rather than accepting death. Modern medicine allows us to extend life, which is often fine and good. Sometimes, however, it backfires. My mother-in-law died, years after she would have liked, when her pacemaker finally ceased to function. I believe each of us needs to determine when “enough is enough” in accepting medical care.
I also believe in “live and let live”. My decisions are mine, not yours. I will support you if you choose to deal with your life via every medical possibility, although I may not make those same choices myself.
As a ten year old child lying delirious in a hospital bed, my fevered brain was not concerned about my survival. It simply did not matter. Now, in my sixties, I am grateful to have survived, and the idea of living beyond 100 is appealing.
A few years ago, my husband and I were in a car accident that could have taken both our lives. The incident served to remind me of the fragility of this life, and to encourage me to plan more fully for the end of it.
I believe it is incumbent upon each of us to “put our affairs in order” now, before we expect to die. One way to do this, beyond creating wills, etc., is through planning our options for whenever we pass from life.
I have created a “death box”, a simple cardboard gift box that contains my wishes. It is a guide for loved ones when too many decisions cluster around death. It has a list of people to be notified, along with a statement of my memorial preferences. Outlined are my choices pertaining to spirituality, and to the disposals of both my body and my most cherished possessions. The box also includes my obituary, written at my husband’s request. Scratched out in longhand, it remains subject to change. So far, it’s OK.
But most important are personal letters. These are love letters left behind, written as time permits. These gifts often find their own way. Once written, some will stay in the box until death opens it, but some may be sent sooner, for reconciliation or other purposes.
I believe accepting and preparing for the reality of death can lead to a richer, fuller life now.