Can Death Be a Gift?
When you look at your life and how you have been living it and you see the gap between how you had hoped to be living it and how you are actually living it, your eyes open wide. Mine did.
Death an Awakening
My father died on August 11, 2010. We were not extremely close; however, it was in this loss that I recognized the beauty of our relationship and the gifts he had given me. His final gift to me was the wake-up call I needed.
I’d experienced the death of loved ones before. My grandparents. My stepfather. And several beloved pets. These were difficult times. But it wasn’t until Daddy died that I realized I could be next. The death of a dad or a mom, a protector figure, out of whom your life was created, puts this reality into stark focus.
At the time of my father’s death, I was successful in my project management career. I was financially stable. And I was married, though not happily. Life had become a series of routines that allowed me to pay my bills and live comfortably, but not happily or peacefully. There was always a strong undercurrent of unease and dissatisfaction with my life.
My dad was my superhero, though I learned this only after his death. He was the strongest man I knew. And he was gone. If he had not survived life, then neither would I. I did not want to die while living the unhappy existence I was experiencing. His death caused a shift in me. Not a huge one, but big enough for me to take an honest inventory of my life. It was a big enough disrupting in my thinking to compel me to make changes in myself and to question why I was tolerating the things in my life that were not making me happy.
Little by little, I worked on myself, did inner work, and developed the strength, confidence, and courage to make changes. Changes that have me living way outside that place I found myself nine years ago when my dad died. I’m doing things that are most meaningful to me. With that comes a sense of satisfaction. I’m satisfied yet a bit unsure of where my life and my newfound boldness will take me. This uncertainty can be scary at times, but I have to tell you, this fear beats the dead feeling that came from slogging, zombie-like, through my former, uninspired life.
Death a Reminder
A few years later I experienced two other losses that reinforced why I had set out on the difficult inner work to figure out who I was, who I wanted to be, and how I could get from there to here. In 2015, my high school sweetheart, Tim, died. He was only 49. We had not stayed in contact, but he was the first peer of mine who’d died. We’d created memories that only he and I experienced. Now I was the keeper of them. When I learned of his death, I was shocked. I thought of him often when I visited my hometown and even considered contacting him, but I hadn’t. I hadn’t known he was battling cancer. He was one year older than me. Indeed, it is possible to die young. Once again, I felt vulnerable. I was going to die.
Then in 2017, the very first person I called a friend, Connie, died. We’d met when I was only three years old. She lived three houses away. We played Barbies together. We disrupted the Girl Scout meeting as we chanted “boring” from the back of the room. We walked to the five-and-dime store through the field behind the swimming club every day during summer. I remember, one day we purchased a package of Whopper malt balls, and on our way back it started raining buckets. In my haste to get back home, I dropped the carton of Whoppers and they crashed to the ground, making a chocolaty mess.
I moved away when I was eleven and we lost touch. I tried to reconnect with her but had been unsuccessful. Her death was untimely and unsettling, she, too, was only 49. I can’t say I was surprised though; Connie had struggled with addiction, and as I look back on her life, even during the days we played together, her soul seemed troubled. She will always hold a special place in my heart.
What will it take for you to “get busy living?”
My father’s death started the ball rolling. Tim and Connie’s deaths prodded me to continue the efforts I’d begun–the inner work I’d embarked upon to live my life with intention and to take the road less traveled, despite my fears and doubts. To live a life at the end of which will leave me having no regrets about what I wish I had attempted.
At the end of your life, what do you want to look back on and feel proud that you went, for despite your fears? In what ways are you living a life that is not in alignment with who you know yourself to truly be? What regrets do you not want to have, as your life comes to a close?
These questions might seem negative and morbid, but answering them honestly is the first step to find the strength and courage to take back your life and experience it the way you were meant to.