Contemplating Death and Life

If you are mindful of death, it will not come as a surprise - you will not be anxious. You will feel that death is merely like changing clothes. Consequently, at that point you will be able to maintain your calmness of mind. 
- Dalai Lama 

Death and dying. We rarely talk about them except when forced to but the inevitability of it is something we all have in common. 

Like many people, my first close up exposure to death was the loss of a grandparent. While I mourned the loss, I was very young and don't think I fully comprehended the nature of death. My awareness of death struck in my early teen years when two young men from our community drove their pickup truck into the side of train at a level crossing. 

One of the victims younger brother was a fellow scout so we were asked to don our uniforms and pay our respects as a troop at the visitation. It was my first exposure to both an open coffin and the death of someone who was only a few years older than I. The enormity and finality of death hit me like a brick wall. I realized there was no way out of this one - the very fact I was living meant that at some point in the future, I was dying. 

Western civilization does a poor job of dealing with death. We joke about it (death and taxes) but we rarely face it head on, discuss it or come to an understanding and open acceptance of death. Over time, I have come to the conclusion that is important to be mindful of death if for no other reason than for the sense of urgency and importance it gives to my limited time on the planet. 

It is still difficult, and no doubt it will become even more challenging when death has its hand on my shoulder. But perhaps accepting that the hand of death is already there will motivate me to live with greater intention and purpose.

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