Death...Learning To Live Well
My whole life I have feared death. Not necessarily my death. But the death of a loved one. The thought of losing a loved one can be crippling at times.
Corrie Ten Boom said, "Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength."
About a decade ago I lost my Uncle to suicide. And for a decade I have both celebrated and cursed his life and his tragic death. My emotions have been such a roller coaster about it all. Last week we went back East to my 'home town'. The city where I was born and lived until I was 8. My uncle, grandparents and other family members are buried there. One afternoon I spent quite a bit of time at my Uncle's grave. I thought it would be some poetic moment of closure... It wasn't. It felt more like what I would think open heart surgery without anesthesia would feel like. I felt every emotion I have felt the last decade just more intensely and all jam packed in to one hour. What a fun way to spend an afternoon... Through all the emotions I was able to reflect on some of the things my Uncle taught me about life. Like to enjoy sushi, and that the little fork is for salads in a fancy restaurant. But more importantly he taught me to believe in myself before I even knew what that meant.
If you have ever experienced a death in your life by suicide I am sure you have felt everything I have felt and maybe more. The "what if's" and the "I should have's" can be haunting. Not to mention all the unanswered questions. But somehow sitting at his grave I realized through his death my Uncle was in the process of teaching me probably one of life's most important lessons as well, how to live well.
Life is so precious and I have a tendency of rushing right through it. I have been on a quest the last few years to live each moment to the fullest. And to embrace every encounter as a 'divine appointment'. No moment is mundane. Every moment is a gift from God and that is not just some Christian cliche. And as I sat at his grave mourning his tragic ending and all the tragic endings in my life, I realized something that has forever changed my perspective on life and death. Death can be a gift that teaches us how to truly live.
“It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.” Ecclesiastes 7:2
My Uncle taught me so much, but by far the most important thing his life and death is teaching me is how to truly live to the fullest each day.
One of my favorite authors is Brennan Manning and in his book "Ruthless Trust" he says we need to live 'NowHere' well. If we don't live in the 'now' and 'here' well, we will end up living 'Nowhere' well. If we don't embrace and live fully in this moment we will miss them all. I absolutely love that concept.
Being someone that is very distracted by both the past and the future I need all the help I can get to live in this moment, the 'now' and 'here' well.
I used to curse my fear of death and the emotions of losing someone close to me. But I am realizing, death can be the very thing to teach us to live well. If we can embrace that fear of death, and allow it to push us towards gratitude for this moment and living fully in this moment, then we have allowed death to do part of it's job.
I still fear my husband dying, and he is perfectly healthy. Yet my fear is powerful and real. But I am realizing the thing I fear the most, could be the very thing that leads me to live my life to the fullest. If I can allow that sadness and fear to push me to embrace each moment more fully what a gift that could be to live the next several decades fully engaged and embracing all the moments.
"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34
Most children know how to live in the moment well. My kids are teaching me more about living than I am teaching them.
On our way to the airport to fly home we stopped at the cemetery with our kids. I wanted them to see where our family was buried. While we were there, I turned around and found that my son was fixing all the plants that had fallen over on people's graves. Silently he walked, ran and skipped from grave to grave making sure their flowers, plants or wreaths that loved ones had put on them were all upright. My daughter began doing it too when she saw what her brother was doing. Before I knew it they had fixed every one of them within 100 yards of us. I just stood there and watched them living fully in the moment. They brought life to other people's death. They didn't care that we had a plane to catch. All they cared about was what was in front of them, a bunch of flowers, plants and wreaths that had been knocked over by the wind and rain the previous afternoon.
It was a precious reminder of what matters. Only this moment matters. I want to be fully present in this moment, every moment. And we made our plane with time to spare.
I have found much peace and even joy realizing that death can be the very thing that teaches me how to truly live.
So here is to living this moment to the fullest! It's all we have!
*This post was way more about 'living in the moment' than dealing with suicide. But I will just mention if you are having suicidal thoughts, reach out to someone. Please don't travel the road of despair by yourself, it's not safe alone. I think if we are all honest, we have all had those thoughts at one time or another, you are not alone! Hang in there-- it will get better. You are not alone and you matter!
Daily Grace to you.
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