First off, if you are dealing with a difficult diagnosis, please know that we are aware it may seem a luxury to ponder dying from a place of safety or distance. We believe that at any waypoint on the human journey, a healthy perspective on dying is part of living a great life with intention, and we offer every word below from a place of respect and positivity.
The fact that we don’t spend more time thinking about or planning for our own death is kind of crazy. We do all kinds of things just in case: insurance, alarms, extra toilet paper, Pinterest boards for... everything! But in preparation for the one thing we know with absolute certainty is going to happen? Nothing.
We plan ahead for things we think will impact our active lives, so how would something that happens after we’re dead really matter? We also quietly admit to ourselves, in the fine print of denial, that death is sad, super uncomfortable to discuss, and to varying degrees, terrifying. It’s just easier to put it off, especially when our actual lives are so busy with other stuff that is happening now—work, family, relationships, um… Netflix.
So, Why Think About Dying When I’m Pretty Busy With Just Living?
Before we get into that, let’s clarify a bit. Thinking about and planning for our own death is about so much more than wills and passwords, or even whether you want to donate your body to a crime-fighting study lab (although those are important things to consider). Directing our attention to death with kindness and purpose helps us recognize the precious nature of our limited time on this earth.
Opening our thoughts to the whole spectrum of our human experience means being able to incorporate that gift of awareness into our everyday lives. It adds emphasis to the things we choose to do—all the big things and the little things, too.
You’ve Got the Power
Of course, we know we can’t control everything, but planning for our own death is an act of empowerment and courage. As “farewellers,” we can choose how our story is told, and we can darn well do our best to be remembered in a way that suits us.
Thinking about and planning for our own death, just a little here and there, can actually be a source of confidence and comfort. It’s certainly a reminder to cram in as much mindful, purposeful living as we can while we inhabit this beautiful gift.
From this perch, the natural answer to why is because thinking about and planning for our own death has everything to do with living now.
How It Helps Us Live More Fully
Has anyone ever asked you what you would do if you only had a week or month to live? The answer is usually some abbreviated version of a bucket list done in concert with the ones we love.
The purpose of questions like this (e.g., “What do you want written on your tombstone,” or “What advice would you give to your younger self,” etc…) is to highlight what’s really important to us, usually presented in stark relief to how we’re actually living. In considering these questions, for a few minutes we’re a bit more appreciative, maybe a tad more enlightened. And then, boom! The next “life thing” snaps us back to reality. Because, most people don’t give a lot of respect to their bucket lists. They see them as a distant dream for some day in the future—you know, when this or that happens, or the stars align.
But at Farewelling, we believe in living our bucket list every day, in real time. And holding just a slight awareness of the fleeting nature of life in mind helps us savor every single moment—and plan that next adventure—right now.
Thinking About What We Want Helps Our Dear Ones Too
Thinking about—and even sharing your wishes for—your own happier ending can add meaning and depth to your relationships. An open dialogue about death and dying with those closest to you will help you discover each other in new and sometimes surprising ways. It’ll also allow your family and friends to truly help and advocate for you if you should ever need healthcare. And when the time comes for you to ride off into that magnificent sunset, they’ll know how to throw you a personalized celebration that suits your values and your style—an unforgettable farewelling for unforgettable you.
Tips from the Farewelling Editors
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Grace Y. Lin is a mom, wife and Licensed Behavioral Therapist living and practicing in New York. Visit her website here.