“That’s it! She has finally lost it! This lady seems to have gotten a thing for death…” I can hear your mind voice from out here. Sheesh!
I know, I know. Here I am thinking and writing about something that most people consider to be taboo. I have been thinking about death and the minute someone begins hanging onto those thoughts, we know where things are headed, right?
But my questions about dying are neither about experimenting with it nor is it about glorifying a natural progression of life. My curiosity about death is about trying to figure out the unknown – to try and understand what happens when we get there. And more importantly, how should we be when we get there?!
Getting Ready for Death?
And why not? Why cannot we be ready for death when we can get ready for birth? Why welcome one natural phase of life, while shying away from another?
Death, as nature teaches us, through her various beloved creations, occurs as a natural progression of age. And that is how death should come calling. Just like everything else, it should arrive at the right time.
What constitutes the right time?
Age is the highest factor. Old age should be the right time for death. When this happens, it is a reflection of the person’s state of health. But how much do we account for the state of the mind? And what about our feelings? How often do we take these two factors into account when we think about a healthy death?!
What would constitute a healthy mind?
Imagine your typical day works out like this when you are old – you go for a walk, indulge in every meal heartfully, laugh with the younger kids, read a book, watch a movie, give some sagely advice to the kids, go out with your other silver-haired friends, vacation with your partner, go to sleep in a comfortable bed, and well…never wake up. You are obviously thinking, “Boy! This is the way to go!”
Now imagine your typical day works out like this when you are old – Alzheimer’s or dementia is eating into your mind – you are in a stage where you are caught between the world that you understand and another world that you are not able to make sense of, your memory of your life is jarred. Or imagine yourself stuck in hospital beds. Either ways you would be wishing that the end of your lifetime had been better, healthier.
This imagination could send you into a flurry where you push yourself towards introspecting and then working upon your overall wellbeing.
Well, that is how effective a view from the end of a lifetime can be.
And then what about how we are feeling when we die?
My mother-in-law is 74 years old and her mind is in a constant state of worry. Worry over how her children and grandchildren would fare in their future. Even though she is completely aware that she can do very less to change the situation, my mother-in-law continues to pile up loads of worry into her head. Here is a gentle reminder of how old she is. She is 74.
74 is an ideal age to relax, and…just…relax. This is the age where the mind should stop wandering into the realms of the challenges of living. 74 is the age that is best spent in the company of happiness. It is the age where we go to sleep with an empty mind, all our burdens unburdened. 74 is the age to let go. And this is the age to welcome the end of a lifetime with peace in the heart.
And yet, so many of us, with health in body but none in the mind continue to live in relative internal disturbance. Often, this disturbance spills over and we render ourselves with the inability to relax, our mind running around with the idea of having spent an unfulfilled life.
Now, why does this happen?
This happens because we mess up our priorities. When we mess up our priorities, we mess up our timing. And when we don’t do things on time, we procrastinate. Take for example that woman who does not go to work because she thinks that she has to get married and set up the house, then grow the kids a bit, and maybe once they are off to college think about going to work. The priorities of this woman are as off as the priorities of the other woman has put off growing a family that she wants to grow to focus on her career.
Many of us know people like this. Many of us are people like this. We burden our minds with other people’s expectations, forgetting to work on our own expectations of ourselves. We often sideline what we want to do in favor of what we are expected to do. And herein, we make the biggest mistake of our lives.
So how do we figure out our priorities?
Figuring out our priorities is as simple as getting the timing right. Nature has instilled a sense of timing within every living being right from birth to adolescence to adulthood to old age. The experience of different emotions during different periods is a sign from nature – get the heck to work, start that bloody family, throw down the towel, breathe in the peace…
Figuring out our priorities is also as simple as imagining.
Imagine yourself at the end of your lifetime. Yes, yes, let’s do this once again. And again, until we get it right. Now imagine how you want to feel when you get there.
How do you want to feel when at the end of a lifetime? There you are, reflecting upon your life, recalling everything that you have gained and lost, your greatest challenges, your happiest moments, and all the exciting times. What you are doing, is filling your bucket with memories of experiences and how you felt during each memory. Once you are done, you take a deep breath and relax at having lived a fulfilling life. This breath is called the breath of peace, and it is the greatest feeling to end a lifetime with.
Now, turn from this point and look backward. Imagine the life that would have given you all this peace. Parallelly, look at all the things that you are doing right now that is blocking your route to peace. You will realize that your ideas and opinions are the only ones stopping you from getting your priorities straight. This is because even the imagination of death is a humbling experience.
What is your view from the end of a lifetime?
When I tried this out, I realized that I would never be at peace without seeing at least one of my books on that best seller, freaking my son out enough into growing up well, nagging my husband into health and spending quality time with family and friends. These are all the things that I want for myself and my family and these are also my priorities. When I look at this bigger picture, everything else becomes little.
Housework is an irritant and has become something that needs to be gotten out of the way so I can write peacefully. This has led me towards ‘working on time management and organization. I speak with my son through my house work inducing him into sharing a few more chores, not only reducing my physical burden, but my mental burden as well. The only thing that I push my husband towards these days is walking, eating more home cooked food and an early retirement. And I am scheduling more time for socializing with friends and family.
The joy of working on priorities
As I continue to focus on my priorities, I can observe everything else that I have wanted fitting itself into position. The one pattern that I have understood through this visualization of life from death is that when we imagine our emotional needs, our material needs become easier to achieve or simpler to derive satisfaction over. It is the emotions that we imagine and work towards achieving that will lead us towards eventual peace.
The idea behind the view from the end of a lifetime is to understand life for what it is – it is a feeling, an emotion. The idea is to imagine a happy family over a large house. When we do it, we will grow to realize that as long as the family is happy, any house would do. And this is simply because, death…is a humbling experience where we become a sum of nothing.
Here’s to looking at life from the end of a lifetime!