There’s nothing like attending a funeral to catapult you into the important questions of life. Why are we really here and is there life beyond the grave? For me, facing up to death is one topic that I’m really not comfortable thinking about. I’ve been fortunate enough in life to have not lost anyone close and thus not encountered the clutches of grief that cradle the bereft.
Recently, I attended the funeral of my friend’s father who had led a full and loving life. As sentiments were spoken during the funeral, one comment held my attention. It was recalled how my friend’s father had quipped in his final days: “no-one gets out of here alive.”
Can I have some more life please?
It is true, that some are taken far too quickly than seems deserving but even those who have had a good innings are still faced with their own mortality. None of us are immune to the inevitability of death and dying. When asked by a nurse at the hospice if she could get anything for my friend’s father, who was gravely ill, he cheekily replied “just another forty years.” For a life well lived, isn’t this what we would all be seeking, upon our deathbed?
In recent years, I have felt completely unsettled by the concept of death and dying, and subsequently kept my head buried deep in the sand when it comes to this matter. So upon putting my experience of the funeral behind me, I later encountered a frank conversation with my partner about his insistence that we write our wills. Needless to say, the thought of planning our wills had me running for the hills!
My partner is about to embark upon a motorbike riding adventure with some mates and thought it was the sensible decision for us to plan our wills. Yes, this is the sensible thing to do, to be prepared, just in case. Yet perhaps what is more sensible, is that I stop running away and start paying attention to my fear of the concept of death and all that it entails!
A sense of hope and peace
I’m sure I can’t be alone in my quest to make peace with the stark reality that each and everyone of us will one day die. For most of my life, the concept of death never scared me because I grounded myself in a very solid faith. I had a peace and a belief in eternity.
I have only ever attended funerals in which there was a comfort and at times joy expressed amongst friends and family members that an eternal life existed after death. Whilst the spiritual peace does not take away the human pain of grief, it certainly provides some sense of hope and meaning, to counter the utter devastation.
However, as our spiritual journeys consist of valleys and peaks, I have often found myself stripped of all peace about death. My finite mind cannot wrap itself around the meaninglessness of death, nor can it comprehend the possibility of eternity.
This leaves me with two choices - to hold steadfast to my spiritual hope which brings a peace that surpasses all understanding, or to rationally try figure this puzzle of death out.
Facing my own mortality
I have a long way to go in facing up to my own mortality but I know that choosing a path devoid of a search for a spiritual meaning leaves me empty and lost. My mortality is real and in some ways, when I consider mortality, it puts everything into perspective. As I face up to my own mortality, it guides the way I want to live my life.
As we rush through our lives, are we taking the time to really consider what is important? If in a blink of an eye, life is taken away, then how should we be living our lives?
Natalie Alexander is passionate about human rights issues, matters of the mind and interfaith insights. When not in deep thought, Natalie loves to travel, drink good coffee and keep fit where she resides on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia.
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