Death has been on my mind lately. In fact, it’s been on my mind for 5 minutes a day to be precise. Now before you start thinking that I’m extremely morbid or that I’ve converted to the dark arts, let me explain to you how I got here.
As a child, I was quite sheltered from Death. It was frowned upon to talk about it (if I dared mention the subject, my superstitious mother would accuse me of wanting her demise and wondering out loud how she ended up with such an ungrateful daughter) and I wasn’t allowed to attend burials until my teenage years. As my favorite speaker, the late Leo Buscaglia, once explained, if you don’t teach your children about Death, they will come to fear it or simply deny it. And so on I went with my Life, knowing that one day it will all end, but not really giving it much thought and mostly believing that Death happens to others.
How thinking about Death improved my Life
Fortunately, I was offered a book called Search Inside Yourself which would be my stepping stone in changing my attitude towards Death. In one chapter, the author asks that you imagine yourself at your own funeral. What it written on your tombstone? What words will be used to describe your existence? How do you want your Life to be remembered? Also called the Tombstone Exercise, this visualization of your tombstone (and your own death) is meant for you to compare your current situation with the life you envision for yourself. If you find jarring discrepancies, you should adjust your actions now because you might be dead tomorrow. And what will your tombstone say then?
As simple as it was, this exercise really sent a jolt through my consciousness and was the catalyst for several changes in my life. However, like most good things, if you don’t make a habit out of it, you’ll lose it. And so my initial enthusiasm for the Tombstone Exercise fizzled and back to my old mindset I went.
I only starting thinking about Death again when I began watching Youtube videos of the late Leo Buscaglia (whom I’ve mentioned previously). He was a wonderful speaker and his research were centered on love and human relationships. In one of this talks, he expressed his indignation over the fact that there were services in Los Angeles that were offered to dying patients to “rent” a person to stay with them in the hospital to keep them company. He argues “If you reach the point of death and you don’t have one person who is going to hang onto your hand, review quickly your life.”
And so I thought about who will be there to hold my hand when I die. I wondered whose love have I earned through my own loving actions. I thought about how I treated my husband. I wondered if I was a kind daughter and sister. I also pondered if I was really there for my friends. My goal was to know if I’ve been good to them and merited in return their support during my final days. It was a powerful assessment of my own behavior.
Why I take 5 minutes a day to think about Death
Determined not to let this momentum die out like the Tombstone Exercise, I decided that I will take 5 minutes a day to think about Death during my morning meditation. I visualize who will be by my side as I take my last breath to remind myself to be kind. Afterwards, I write down in my journal the words that will be written on my tombstone and think about what will be said during my eulogy to encourage myself to dream big, take action and make a difference.
Since implementing this practice into my mornings, I feel that most of my days are now filled with intention and that I am more mindful about my contributions to my relationships. Yes, it happens that I fall back into my small mindset during the daytime but I am always reminded the next morning to focus on what is truly important. Who knew thinking about Death on a daily basis would improve my Life?
If you’re interested on the topic, here are two articles worth reading:
- 5 Reasons Thinking About Death Will Make Your Life Better
- 9 Reasons Why People Who Constantly Think About Death Are More Alive
Also, if you want to know more about Leo Buscaglia, here is a link to one of his videos. He is a passionate speaker, so don’t be alarmed if he screams 😉
I hope this post will bring you to reflect about your own beautiful impermanence and how you can make your time here worth while.
With much love and hugs,
Photo credits to Jakob Owens, taken from Unsplash.com