When you are born you begin to die

How do you read this title? Optimist, pessimist, fatalist?

Yet we know that birth portends death. There are a just finite number of grains of sand in the hourglass.

As Stephen Covey advised, “Begin with the end in mind.”

But how do we use this to our advantage?

Some of us romanticize death, many fear it, and most deny it.

While we are always surrounded by the specter of death–COVID, war, famine, disease, it remains such a forbidden topic in our society. We don’t talk about it. We don’t prepare for it. We don’t know what to say when it happens. We avoid it.

We prefer our insatiable pursuit of immortal ageless youthfulness. Battling father time is an ESPN level sport in this culture. Exceptionalism reigns, especially the possibility of our “untimely” death. It is some weird thing that happens to “other” people. We expect long lives, we plan for them. In short, we hate growing up.

The newly released movie, OLD, is the latest example of cultural kerosene that enflames our anxiety and our burning desire for the Fountain of Youth. Those of us who are well into the back stretch of the race, experience the mind-bending time travel of life’s acceleration. How did we get this old? How do we have kids this old? We wake up in the middle of the night in our mid-life, end-of-life, nightmares of regrets and near misses. The continuous loop of a horror film of what could have been and a bonfire of shouldas couldas. C’mon M. Night Shyamalan—a film about people aging too fast and then dying? Really? Don’t need to see it since I live it!

I have met so many zombies who could never have been cast as extras on Walking Dead! These people have traded in their compassion for anyone else to kneel before the Dorian Gray alter. These are the obsessed nip and tuck addicts, who have had “work done” over and over and over. Implants, hair plugs, color, gumby stretched, cut and pulled in gravity defying directions. Who are they fooling? Never understood how these people can spend so much money and not own a mirror at home.

Heart disease is the number one killer. Nice looking people with dark and empty hearts.

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live. Norman Cousins

Coming to grips with our impending mortality will inform our morality.

The concept of death is something I have had to learn to accept and incorporate into my life. My Dad talked about his death and his plans for life after him for thirty years. We saw documents at several holiday gatherings and even the grandchildren were privy to the plans. It was awkward, but there was an appreciation for the chance to see behind the death curtain. For me and my siblings it was such a relief.  And more important it propelled our own plans. We had to ask the tough questions of ourselves, write them down and share them.

What type of death do we want? Are we ready? Who should know?

Everything is temporary. Everything has an end.

Life expectancies are declining even after accounting for COVID.

You can plan your exit strategy but when your ticket is punched is not your call.

Thinking about our end will bring energy to the present.

Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.  Seneca

The Stoics had it right 2000 years ago.

Thinking about your death and the value of your time can save your life.

Memento Mori—Literally means: Remember your death, Remember you will die.

Part of an ancient practice found all over the world. From Stoicism, Buddhism, and Islam.

Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble has a contemporary Memento Mori prayer practice for Catholics all over the country. She teaches her followers to think about your death every day, as a means of appreciating the present and focusing on the future.

Think about one’s death for 5 minutes every day is a practice in Bhutan that boasts a Gross National Happiness Index.

Getting stuff done, not procrastinating things, loving others, and living life to its fullness will make you happier! And make the people around you happier!

Memento mori! And when you are comfortable, start to share your thoughts with loved ones.

I wish you a long life, but I wish you a full and fulfilling life if it is not long.

What I think is, it’s never too late… or, in my case, too early, to be whoever you want to be… There’s no time limit, start anytime you want… change or stay the same… there aren’t any rules… We can make the best or worst of it… I hope you make the best… I hope you see things that startle you. Feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you challenge yourself. I hope you stumble, and pick yourself up. I hope you live the life you wanted to… and if you haven’t, I hope you start all over again.  Benjamin Button

Thanks for reading. John

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