My dad is visiting me from Seattle, and I’m grateful. He’s older now – 77 — and each moment together seems more meaningful, more precious.
And as I feel our experience getting richer, I feel deep gratitude — for life and for death.
I’ve always known that life is a gift, but now as I get older and my dad gets older, I realize that death, too, is a huge gift — a constant reminder that we are here on borrowed time.
In fact, death is perhaps the most profound spiritual gift life gives us.
If there were no clock going tick, tock, tick tock, would any of us choose to really appreciate this moment?
Or would we all live in a coma-like, spiritual slumber?
Even now, with time marching steadily forward, we often fall into familiar, slightly-hypnotizing patterns — patterns that cause us to treat one day quite similarly to the next, or to not appreciate something or someone as much as we might.
What would it be like if there were no end to this physical existence?
We would certainly take it for granted even more than we do now!
Our culture is so “forward-thinking.” We’re always trying to get to a goal – out there in the future somewhere – whether it’s a graduation, a new job, or a vacation.
We’re constantly focusing on these mirages that draw us out of the present moment, into the future. Our loved one gives us a kiss, and we barely feel it, because we’re late for work. A sibling calls us, and we’re not fully present in the conversation, because we’re simultaneously paying the bills that are due next week. Our child shows us a project from art class, and we can only respond with a cursory “that’s nice,” because we’re working on deadline.
There’s that word again.
Language is so telling, isn’t it?
My favorite is this:
A gift we always have, but rarely open – I mean really, truly open — and savor.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s great to have goals – especially goals that are driven by a grand vision.
But as you step into your highest visions for what you want to create in the world, can you be present?
That’s what life is challenging each and every one of us to do – to birth our visions while appreciating and savoring every, moment on the path.
If we get addicted to future-thinking, we actually cheat the present. Every time we reach a goal or vision, we already have another goal to replace the one before. We never get to stop and “smell the roses” – to appreciate what we have accomplished and to simply enjoy our life.
The best way I know to break an addiction to future-thinking is this: celebrate death.
As we near Halloween and the Day of the Dead, there will be much opportunity to celebrate death.
But you’ll probably have to look really hard for it, because we have a tendency to disguise our death holiday in crazy costumes, wild parties and endless bags of candies, just as we tend to disguise our Easter celebration of rebirth celebration in fancy brunches, egg hunts, and chocolate bunnies.
So look under all the costumes and the candy, and remember this: we’re all going to die.
That’s what it’s really about.
And because we’re all going to die, this life – every moment of it — is precious beyond belief.
May the gift of death inspire us all to live and love more truly, deeply, and passionately in every moment.