The Meaning of It All


A really half baked idea came to me.  That our purpose for being on earth is to die.  That is, we will, in that great beyond, assess our life on Earth primarily on one thing--how well did we die.

I'm told that in Medieval times, the church provided instruction on how to die.  And nowadays we have people telling us to "go towards the light".  That's not what I mean.

I mean, did we, when confronting our mortality, go forward in complete denial, as my first wife and my father did?  Did we sit there morbidly measuring death's approach, as my mother often did?  Do we "rage, rage against the dying of the light?"  Do we spend our last hours cursing God or our loved ones?  Do we stumble forward into oblivion, leaking our life-force drop by miserly drop in an unresponsive stupor?

One of the truest statements I know is "most people are not afraid of dying, they are afraid of dying without having lived".  I look back on my life with a certain degree of contentment.  I have loved, both well and poorly.  I have hurt people, but I have also made amends in many cases, and been forgiven.  My work has given me great pleasure, and I have achieved a degree of fame and monetary reward that satisfies me, although that has rarely motivated me directly.  I am surrounded by people who love me, and whom I love.  And I tell them and show them frequently that this love is in my heart.

If it were me rather than Diana with a malignant lump, would I calmly face my end?  I think so, and someday I'll know.  Every day I feel blessed to be alive, even going through this difficult time.  I treasure my time with her.

So I think the best way to have a good death is to have a good life.  Face your fears, go for the gold, treasure yourself and others.  I believe if I can do this, death will feel like pushing your chair back from the table of life, replete with a glorious feast, but so full that you can't eat another thing.  It will be time to withdraw, digest, and let the ripples you set in motion on Earth spread out and die down.

When I was Diana's age, I was just beginning to deepen my midlife journey.  I would have laughed at this entry, or, more likely, never read past the first line.  She has chosen a life that didn't give her many choices for most of it.  What an irony that the choices she is now making (doctors, treatment, hospitals) have more to do with how to not die than how to live.    Has she ever discovered who she is?  Does she love herself?  The answer to both questions is "yes" to a degree, but she needs to deepen the process.  As I needed to at her age.

I have known people who said "almost dying taught me how to live".  I learned a similar lesson when my first wife died.  We can't take our next breath for granted.  So all the more reason to breathe deeply, joyfully, thankfully, filling our life with intention and awareness.  So we can die well, as we have lived.

Thank you for reading.

Copyright © 2002 Pete Stevens. All rights reserved.