How much would your life change if you embraced the concept that we will all die…but then got busy living with the gift of that perspective?
Thinking about mortality doesn’t have to be morbid. It can help you reflect on meaning. Remembering that life is finite gives us perspective. When we look at its temporary nature, we have greater resolve to live in the now. We appreciate what we have and love life even if life hasn’t always been kind to us.
Dali Lama said: “Man surprises me most about humanity. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the results being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.“
How would your life change if you had a terminal diagnosis?
If we get a diagnosis of a disease that is going to result in our death (or think it is…because we don’t know that), suddenly life and death hold a different meaning. Life becomes more precious, and many people describe their reaction as ‘having their eyes opened’.
Someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying
Like tomorrow was a gift
And you’ve got eternity
To think about
What you’d do with it?
What could you do with it?
“Live Like You Were Dying” – Tim McGraw
The song “Live Like You Were Dying” performed by Tim McGraw came from this situation. Written by Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman, it is about a friend who received a medical misdiagnosis regarding a form of lung cancer. Wiseman and Nichols began discussing how family members and friends who learned of a serious illness seemed to develop a new perspective on life. They decided to write a song based on the concept, hoping that it might inspire someone in such a situation.
A Death Perspective Can Be Freeing!
In Out of the Darkness, by Steve Taylor tells the stories of more than 30 people who have undergone permanent spiritual awakening after intense trauma and turmoil in their lives. He wrote that the people he interviewed described a new ability to live in the present. Facing death had taught them that the future and the past are unimportant, and that life only ever takes place in the present moment. They had developed a much more appreciative attitude, a sense of gratitude for aspects of their life they had taken for granted before. They were grateful for their friends and family, grateful just to be alive, grateful to be able to perceive and experience the world around them. The world had also become a more real place to them — things that they had never paid attention to before became strikingly vivid and beautiful.
Have Courage and an Attitude of Acceptance
When we face up to death actively and directly, there’s a chance that we’ll rise above anxiety and insecurity and experience its transformational potential.
An attitude of acceptance is important too. If we resist death, fight against its inevitability, refuse to let go of our lives, and feel bitterness about all the things that we’re going to lose and leave behind then we’re much less likely to experience the potentially positive effects.
Worries and anxieties which had oppressed them before — for example, worries about being liked by other people, about not being successful in their career, or about past events which had made them feel embarrassed — no longer seemed important. There was a sense of letting go — of releasing themselves from fear, from ambitions, from attachment to material goods or status.
How to Live Like You’re Dying
Death is always present, and its transformational power is always accessible to us, so long as we’re courageous enough to face it. Becoming aware of our own mortality can be a liberating and awakening experience, which can – strangely enough, it might seem – encourage us to live authentically and fully for the first time.
So, how do you live like you are dying? First is to acknowledge that death is a part of our life story, that it will not be avoided. Then, do things you’ve never done before. Tell someone you love them before it’s too late. Visit an old friend. Write that book. Get a pet. Help your neighbor. Choose to speak words of kindness rather than react in anger. Love yourself.
When you live in this way, life becomes clearer. Stop holding onto the past or things that do not serve you. Set yourself free to live the life you want. Give yourself permission to do the things that you most want to do. Take risks. Chase the things that matter most. Give back. Stand for what you believe in. Make a difference because this is the one life you have, so do something great with your time.
There’s an urgency towards living your dreams and finding your direction when you know acknowledge you’re going to die one day. When you decide to go for what you want, you stop fearing failure or even death. You live an authentic life.
We know that life can be unfair, but the goal is to find beauty in it. Seeing beauty doesn’t mean walking away from suffering or the unpleasant. Seeing the beauty in life is about facing what is and doing what you can to make it better. If you can’t find the good in a situation, be the good. When you open your eyes to the beauty around you, you not only learn how to live but find what to live for.
So, if it’s your birthday, don’t complain about getting old. Celebrate another trip around the sun, because you never know how many more you have left. Every birthday is a blessing no matter how old you are —and it’s certainly better than the alternative.
Helen Mirren on Aging
Helen Mirren has been in the news a lot recently due to her role in 1923 – the Yellowstone Prequel – and her charming views on aging.
She told Today in an interview: “You either die young or you get older. That’s the reality. I don’t want to die young. I never did want to die young. I’m too curious about life,” she said. “All lives have their ups and downs. You have two choices. You have to embrace it and allow it to happen. It’s the natural rolling on of life. It happens to every single person on the planet. It’s just a part of being a human being.”
In another interview she said, “I believe life is about constantly conquering your own fears by putting yourself in ridiculous situations,” Helen Mirren says with a glint in her eyes. “You can’t overthink it,” she continues. “You just have to do it.”
At 72 her view on life has freed her to have some incredible opportunities, and she’s a great example for all of us to live well!
- King, L. A., Hicks, J. A., & Abdelkhalik, J. (2009). Death, life, scarcity, and value: an alternative perspective on the meaning of death. Psychological science, 20(12), 1459–1462. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02466.x
- Another Year Closer to Death. https://medium.com/substance/another-year-closer-to-death-4f62866dd511
- The Psychology of Death: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/out-of-the-darkness/201402/the-psychology-of-death
- How to Live When You’re Dying: https://www.beliefnet.com/love-family/life-events/how-to-live-when-youre-dying.aspx
- Out of the Darkness, Steve Taylor
- 7 Ways Of Remembering You’re Going To Die One Day Motivates You To Live In The Moment (Forbes)
- Tim McGraw Live Like You Were Dying
Old Age is a Gift
Charlie read this anonymous Facebook post, whose author is unknown.
Old age, I decided, is a gift. I am now, probably for the first time in my life, the person I have always wanted to be. Oh, not my body! I sometime despair over my body - the wrinkles, the baggy eyes and the sagging butt. And often I am taken aback by that old person that lives in my mirror, but I don't agonize over those things for long. I would never trade my amazing friends, my wonderful life, my loving family for less gray hair or a flatter belly. As I've aged, I've become more kind to myself and less critical of myself. I've become my own friend. I don't chide myself for eating that extra cookie, or for not making my bed, or for buying that silly cement gecko that I didn't need, but looks so avante garde on my patio. I am entitled to overeat, to be messy, to be extravagant. I have seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon; before they understood the great freedom that comes with aging. Whose business is it if I choose to read until 4:00 am and sleep until noon? I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 50s & 60s, and if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love, I will. I will walk the beach in a swim suit that is stretched over a bulging body and will dive into the waves with abandon if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the bikini set. They, too, will get old. I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten and I eventually remember the important things. Sure, over the years my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or when a beloved pet gets hit by a car? But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect. I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turn gray and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into deep grooves on my face. So many have never laughed and so many have died before their hair could turn silver. I can say "no" and mean it. I can say "yes" and mean it. As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don't question myself anymore. I've even earned the right to be wrong. So, to answer your question, I like being old. It has set me free. I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be. And I shall eat dessert every single day.
Recipe of the Week
We always need an excuse to eat cake – and we just gave you the excuse under the banner of living every day as a gift! So what better way to celbrate life than a slice of Elvis Presley Cake! It’s a pineapple pecan cake with cream cheese frosting. Get the recipe here from My Cake School.
From Everyone Dies:
Everyone Dies: and yes, it is normal!
Everyone Dies (and yes, it is normal) is a story about a young boy named Jax who finds something special on the beach where he and his grandpa Pops are enjoying a wonderful day. Pops helps Jax understand that death is a normal part of life. This book provides an age appropriate, non-scary, comfortable way to introduce the important topic of mortality to a preschool child. Its simple explanation will last a lifetime. Autographed copies for sale at: www.everyonediesthebook.com. Also available at Amazon
We offer a way to memorialize your loved one or treasured pet with a piece of handmade jewelry. When people comment on it and the wearer can say for example “I received this when my mother died” which opens the conversation about this loss. All our jewelry is made with semi-precious stones and beads, vintage beads, and pearls. You can choose between earrings or bracelets and the color family. Learn More
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