It seems morbid to talk about death at the onset of a new year but surprisingly mortality is on many minds, especially Gen X and the baby boomers. Several talked about checking off items of their bucket lists as part of their new year’s resolutions. You could put it down to ‘that’ stage in life. Yet it’s not a bad idea to fulfill your dreams as soon as possible… after all who knows, right?
How comfortably an individual accepts death is determined largely by their personal experiences. Those that have suffered a serious illness or the death of family members, friends and colleagues recently are more likely to be in touch with their mortality when compared to a person who has not.
Coming to terms with death, yours or a loved one’s, is not easy no matter how practical you are or how much time you have had to prepare. Nonetheless a close brush forces you to accept the inevitable and that could change your perspective on life.
While we’d all like to live forever and modern medicine offers the lingering hope of postponing the end, death is certain.
Our discomfort with this fact is apparent in the efforts we make to avoid talking or thinking about it. Death cafes that have mushroomed around the world were born out of our fears and are helping many come to terms with it.
Early societies didn’t need death cafes or bereavement counselling because they talked freely about death and even celebrated it. However asking a loved one about their wishes regarding distribution of their assets or funeral arrangements would not go well today. Your parent or grandparent is likely to think that you are waiting for them to pass on. Yet it is an important conversation to have. Especially in the light of the new laws pertaining to assisted dying.
When I ask if you have a death wish I don’t mean do you want to die right now. Rather… have you thought about it or do you have goals you want to achieve before you draw the last breath. While for some it might involving putting their affairs in order, others would simply like to live it up.
One gentleman shared that knowing he had little time left on earth would prompt him to live life on his terms—finally put himself first. I know a cancer patient who did exactly that. It didn’t go well with his family because he spent so much time away from them but he met death on his own terms.
That’s a death wish fulfilled. Whether the call comes when you are skydiving or at home surrounded by family.
The success of (and need for) death cafes can be judged by the fact they have spread to more than 30 countries including Canada.
Attendees say that contrary to misconceptions about goths and morbidity, participants are normal people and it has improved their quality of life. Accepting their mortality has helped many overcome the fear of dying (one of the biggest fears humans have) as well as enjoy and appreciate life daily. We might not choose to die or how it happens, but we can have a say in how we live up to it!
One terminally-ill man decided to spend his last year visiting family all over the world to say goodbye. It was his gift to himself and them.
Psychologists believe that accepting death as normal would also help with the grieving process. This is one of the biggest draws of death cafes and people of all ages including families with young kids have benefited.
My own experiences have definitely influenced my perspective on death and life. While I am not looking forward to dying, the fear is gone. Having lost my dad and grandparents in my teenage years and several close friends over the years changed my attitude.
As family members age or are diagnosed with a terminal illness, you can’t escape the inevitability of death. It’s the first thought that grips you when the phone rings at night. Ironically any news of death is about people you didn’t think were on the list.
Defining your death wish can give new meaning to existence! I have realized that accepting death can help create a blueprint for a fulfilling life. Not just the things you do but how you relate to people and situations as well. Make that your New Year’s resolution!