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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Preparing To Die - The Bittersweet Opportunity Of A Lifetime

The fact remains, we will all die. We just don't know when. One well-heeled adage claims that the only sure things in life are death and taxes. To counter this, however, if one has a good accountant, the taxes become less certain. Death, on the other hand, not so much.

We live in a rat race society, selfishly accumulating 'stuff' before someone else has the opportunity of amassing it in their collection. We cherish our 'things' and alter our behaviors by our very ownership of these inanimate objects, whether they be toys, gadgets, art, commemorative widgets, or whatever.

Circumstances change quickly when facing our imminent demise. Suddenly, those trinkets of artificial value become worthless reminders of how we got wrapped up in a consumer culture at the cost of sharing the experiences life offers. Few of us can honestly admit to a life of chasing dreams, having fun, enjoying the moment, smiling more, and regretting less.

Those faced with a terminal illness share a common, if not unlikely, bond with inmates on death row as well as those mere seconds away from a mortal infliction. They all have time to prepare for death. The amount of time may differ, but the fortuity remains nonetheless.

A perilous journey ensues when you know you are about to die. One of the most immediate thoughts harken to the unrealized ambitions in one's life. "If only..." could be heard their inner most thought.

Therein begins a journey within oneself of identifying the many regrets that can accumulate during a lifetime. We all have them. Some we quietly tuck away in our cerebral vault. And some are so strong and prominent as to actually help define us as a person.

We worry about loved ones, particularly our children, and what effect one's passing will have on their impressionable beings. Not being there for important milestone events, seemingly insignificant boo-boos, or shepherding them to become productive and responsible adults, all cloud prevailing thoughts.

Such notions can occur in nano-seconds, as is the case if someone is becoming the victim of a violent end. Others have the luxury of having more time to contemplate their impact on Earth and what sort of legacy we leave behind to inspire those who choose to remember and follow.

Having precious time to 'fill in the blanks' allows one to bring closure to life chapters that, for whatever reason, remain unexperienced. Some choose to travel, seeing the marvels of the world from a somewhat unique perspective. Others find the strength to educate us of the warning signs of their affliction. Still others might embark on an oddessy to fill their backpack with experiences, outlandish or otherwise. Sadly, some opt to curl up in a dank corner somewhere in a pitiful cocktail of 'woe is me'.

Religion plays a hefty role in the lives of some. Even those who barely practice their faith turn to their creator in these desperate times. For each, these pious explorations are very personal, reflecting the nature and nurture of their lifetime.

There is, perhaps, no other more profound contemplation than that undergone between the moment one learns of his or her sentence of death and when that inevitable day actually occurs. Values shift. Senses are awakened. Motivation is refocused. All is compared to how things were yesterday when everything was so routine. Regardless of the person facing this liberty, a decision is made about how our remaining time will be invested.

Those outside the fold see those facing mortality as brave, courageous, and unfailing. How can we deny the whims of someone not long for this planet?, we reason. Yet we fail to absorb those same passions and empathies for ourselves as we cling to the familiarity of our daily rut, afraid of making the changes, perhaps even enduring sacrifices, that could lead to a more fulfilling life while we still have the wherewith all to truly enjoy it. There is always a 'but...', an excuse, why we choose to continue on an unsatisfying path of blah rather than embrace the adventure awaiting around every corner.

Raise a glass and toast to those facing imminent mortality, to those who choose to complete whatever chapters in their book of life, with feats of valor, despite the challenges that await. Hail to the bravado in grabbing Death by the gonads forcing it to wait until you accomplish a few more deeds. It is something we shouldn't lack in undertaking while we can. Today. Now.

The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth of the hole.

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