“Having feared death all of my life, now that I have confronted it, I no longer fear it. Had I during my life feared death as little as I do now, I would have dared more and better things.” Rex Winsbury (www.hospice.net)
Several years ago when I knew that it was time to make peace with death, I read this article by Mr. Winsbury who had spent some time in a hospice in England with an illness that was thought to be terminal. He eventually did recover, left the hospice and went on to lead a very active life. His thoughts caused me to wonder what was I doing or not doing in my life because of my fear of dying?
I was an 8-year-old child when my grandmother died. I was so scared of going to her funeral that I pretended to be sick so I couldn’t go. The intensity of that fear resurfaced years later, when I was visiting my mother at her retirement home in Michigan. At that time she was a healthy 86-year-old woman. We were having lunch and we shared with each other that we were both afraid of dying. I left to fly back home to Colorado. The next time I saw her was several weeks later when I was called back to Michigan as she had just experienced a massive stroke. She died two weeks later after never regaining consciousness.
Three years later my sister and nephew and mother in law died after experiencing several years of cancer treatment. Within a year of their passing, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a deeply soul searching time for me and I am now blessed with excellent health and also with more peaceful thoughts about the death of the body.
As we grow older we are more likely to be exposed to the passing of a loved one and also we are now considering our own passing. It is an exceptional opportunity to explore this by reading, writing in a journal and talking with others. Our spiritual beliefs very much play a role in that discussion. In her book, Deathing, Anya Foos-Graber writes, “By allowing yourself to think about the unthinkable can make it less forbidding. Facing up to your mortality is the most selfless gift you can give your loved ones.” And we certainly cannot live life fully until we have made peace with death.
I have learned the wisdom of taking myself more lightly. As Norman Cousins talks about in his book, Anatomy of an Illness, humor was the key to keeping him pain free during a very serious illness. So I will end these thoughts with a joke.
After dying in a car crash, three friends go to Heaven for orientation. They are all asked the same question, “When you are in your casket and friends and family are mourning over you, what would you like to hear them say about you?
The first guy said, ” I would like to hear them say that I was one of the great doctors of my time and a great family man.”
The next guy said, “I would like to hear them say that I was a wonderful husband and school teacher who made a huge difference in the life of our children.”
The last guy thinks a moment and replies, “I’d like to hear them say….LOOK! HE’S MOVING!!!