Amidst this extended season of loss and grief, my family experienced another last night. My wife’s beloved cousin left this world from cancer, leaving behind young children and a family that will deeply miss him. These moments in life, when the loss of a loved one causes us to confront our own mortality, are a wake up call. A call we, often, choose not to answer.
Each of us will die. This is an indisputable truth. We carry the spectre of death with us everywhere we go, like a constant companion we simultaneously fear and willfully ignore.
What if we stop turning away? What if we turned toward it, looked death directly in the eyes and embraced it, holding it close like an old and wise friend?
Many faith traditions include the idea of keeping death as an advisor.
When death is there with us, it is actually an opportunity to be more fully alive. Weighed against the brevity and preciousness of life, how small our troubles begin to seem; how much more slow to take or cause offense we might find ourselves.
Perhaps our friend, death, is the original heartivist. There are few problems we might take to him that he would not advise us to approach with generosity, love, and kindness. He is unimpressed with wealth, fame, or status; as the great equalizer, death cares not for these things at all.
Under the tutelage of death, we can lighten up and take ourselves less seriously. We can give more fully, knowing service is our only real legacy. Nothing else was ever truly ours anyway.