By Rev. Glen Eagle
There may be some things in life that you wish were certain, like winning a lottery or meeting the perfect person, but apparently there are only two for sure: death and taxes. Most of us spend a lot of time trying to avoid both. Ultimately, we will have more luck getting away from the taxes, as death is a certainty. However, we live in a world that goes to extreme lengths to deny death and aging. I had an old aunt that wouldn’t write her will because she felt it would bring on an early demise. There are so many cures, preventatives and precautions, that I think some people will eventually die of nothing – but they will die. That is not a morbid thought, it’s a fact.
The question is, what do you do with that fact? For some, the fear of death reduces the ability to live. Instead of denying death, we need to embrace it and thereby take away its power. When we do that, we can live a fuller life. Here is a suggested list of ways to cheat death.
First, take a walk through a cemetery. Many people are afraid to venture into a cemetery – Hollywood has done a great job of selling horror. Take a moment and read the stones and realize that every person there had a life. Imagine for a moment who they were. The dates can be very different in length and each one has a story. The idea behind this walk is to overcome the horror that is so often associated with death.
Second, take a moment and think about the people who you have lost. Not in a mournful way, but in celebration of the days you spent together. Sometimes, funerals are such a busy time that you forget their stories. We defeat death by allowing the stories to live on.
Third, if you are held back by the restrictions from someone who has died, allow them to change. I have often heard from someone that their father/mother/spouse would never want them to do something like sell the cottage, yet if that person was still alive they might be happy to sell the cottage due to changing circumstances. You cannot live someone else’s life for them, nor can they live yours. Death uses self-inflicted guilt to limit life.
Fourth, remember to live before death. So often, people lie on a bed, unable to go further, and regret the opportunities they missed. When you are mentally or physically restricted by aging, you can’t go on that trip, or run that camp for kids. If there is something you always wanted to do, then do it.
Finally, without getting religious, I believe there is a life beyond this one. Every culture has held that belief. In any group of people, more than one person can recount stories of “visits from beyond.” In fact, it is impossible to imagine your non-existence. You are always present in the vantage point from which you view your absence. In other words, to see an empty room, you have to be in it. I think it helps to see death as a continuation of a journey. Someone stated, “We are not humans on a spiritual journey but spiritual beings on a human journey.” Going on a trip is not as fearful as ceasing to exist.
If we know how to face death, then we know how to face life. Be thankful and enjoy it.
Glen Eagle has been a United Church minister since 1979. His writing includes articles, poetry and songs, and his inspiration includes riding horses and motorcycles.
You can contact him through Facebook