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Let’s Talk About Death (Part 2)

So, in the last blog, we looked at why it is so difficult to talk about death and dying, and how society’s attitudes have changed with time. In this blog, I want to explore my views on life and death, and invite you to confront your own ideas. Before we start, there are two big caveats: firstly, views on death are extremely personal, so this is not an attempt to force my ideas on you. Rather, I hope that by sharing my views, I’ll encourage you to think and talk about this most forbidden of topics, so you can come to your own conclusions about how you see it. Secondly, I am no expert here! My views are constantly changing and growing, so please take everything I write with a pinch of salt, and feel free to exercise a large dose of skepticism!

What is death? There are as many different interpretations of death as there are people who have walked the earth. This is a very good indicator that we don’t have a “right” answer to this question, and probably never will. Imaginings of death can range from an absolute end of existence, to a transition, to part of a cycle, to a beginning. No wonder we’re often confused about it! In my own mind, death is a transition, from our earthly existence to the next phase of our life. However, I have no fixed ideas on what that next phase could be. Indeed, it could be anything from a complete lack of awareness and existence as we know it, through some kind of alternative way of being (eternal life?) to a step in a process of reinvention and reincarnation. It may be that we are all sharing the cosmic energy passed on to us from those who walked the earth before us, but their awareness, memories and experiences are not accessible to us. Many of you might think that this uncertainty would bring with it fear, anxiety or trepidation about death. However, to me this is one of the attractions of my own belief system – the unsurety as to what comes next greatly appeals to me. The real mystery and excitement of life is its uncertainty, and our own lack of clarity about how it ends only adds to this.

With such a strong belief in the uncertainty of life, and the excitement of exploring each phase without knowing what comes next, it should come as no surprise that I have never understood the appeal of eternal life, either in this realm or  any other. I have enjoyed and savoured every part of my existence, but none of it has been so perfect that I would want to spend an eternity stuck here! Indeed, the one true constant in my life has been change, and my hope is that this continues through all phases of my existence in this world and beyond.

When we reach the end of our journey on earth, how do we measure the success of our own lives? Many people are caught up with the legacy they may leave behind. We aim to live an exceptional life so that after death, we will be remembered for eons to come! But, what is the appeal? We certainly won’t be here to witness or enjoy any adulation that comes our way after death. Who is this for? Think of this – of all the billions of people who have walked the earth since the dawn of human history, how many do you know or remember? Hundreds? Thousands? Tens of thousands? How ever many you do remember or acknowledge for their great deeds, this number would account for a fraction of a percent of all who have passed this way. Yet, each of us has a legacy that indeed lasts forever. Each decision we make, each act of kindness or cruelty, each human interaction (good or bad), leaves its mark and subtly changes the flow of history forever. Without you the world would surely be a different place, now and in the future. This, no matter who you are! I hold fast to this philosophy in my own life. My aim is to ensure that, at the end of my life, my balance sheet will show a surplus of positives, and I would have left the world a better place than I met it, even if only marginally so. In this way, all our legacies live on forever, and the world is a different place with us having passed through it. Real legacy is not about who we are, it’s about what we do and how we touch those around us. 

I hope that my thoughts on life and death have helped you consider your own ideas on this matter. If we all spend a little more time thinking about the meaning of our lives and the significance of our deaths, then I am sure the world would be a better place for it. In the meantime, live your best life, face the door at the end of it with optimism and, when the time comes, walk through it knowing that you left your mark on history!

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