Part 2 of a 4 Part Series.  You can find Part One here.


Live Like We Are Dying?  What do you mean, you might ask?  I’ve got plenty of time here, no need to worry. Hmmm, how can you be so sure?  Lives change in the blink of an eye.  Perhaps, in this moment, we may find we don’t have much time left on this planet. Suddenly, we’re in a panic trying to figure out how to squeeze LIVING into whatever space we have left.

Okay, so let’s get real:  we know we are going to die. We all like to think we will have years and years into the future but, we can walk out the door and trip down the stairs, we can get into an accident or any other myriad of things can happen today or tomorrow.  Oddly, even with this knowledge, we waste so much precious time.  So I ask, “Why do we live like we have forever?”

We are often afraid to acknowledge the inevitable.  This is especially true in America.  For as progressive as we are in many areas, death and dying seem to take a back seat.  Death is a part of life and we need to be more in tune and in greater acceptance of this natural part of the cycle.

Perspective Shift: We need to live like we are dying!

How many of you are walking through life in a fog or feel strangled by the mundane and suffocating day in and day out routine?  Are you feeling as though something is missing?  Perhaps you are consistently busy with work, family and friends but experiencing a sense of ordinary or mediocrity that is more overwhelming than the chaos itself?  Are there things you want to experience but can’t due to a real (or perceived) lack of resources?  I’m certain we all have these feelings or situations at one time or another

Stephen King once said, “It always some down to just two choices.  Get busy living, or get busy dying.”

So, let’s talk.  Over the course of this series, I’m going to reference works by several people; the most frequent will be the words of Frank Ostaseski as, in my opinion, he has some profound wisdom to impart.

The Easy Part: The Dying

“Death is our friend precisely because it brings us into absolute and passionate presence with all that is here, that is natural, that is love.”  ~ Rilke

Maria Popova writes:  “This notion that death grants us a most singular and intimate perspective on life, as much as love does…a celebration of how the recognition of death comes to each of us, a recognition at once consolatory and conciliatory, brings us closer to one another and closer still to the innermost truth of our own being.”

Lesson 1

In his book, The Five Invitations:  Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully, Zen Hospice Project co-founder Frank Ostaseski tells us this:  “Dying is inevitable and intimate.  I have seen ordinary people at the end of their lives develop profound insights and engage in a powerful process of transformation that helped them to emerge as someone larger, more expansive, and much more real that the small, separate selves they had previously taken themselves to be.  This is not a fairy-tale happy ending that contradicts the suffering that came before, but rather a transcendence of tragedy…I have witnessed a heart-opening occurring in not only people near death, but also their caregivers.  They found depth of love within themselves that they didn’t know they had access to.  They discovered a profound trust in the universe and the reliable goodness of humanity that never abandoned them, regardless of any suffering they encountered.  If that possibility exists at the time of dying, it exists here and now.” 

It exists here and now.  Repeat that again!  This is a powerful statement and full of truth.  But here’s the thing, none of us know when our last day will be  Have we done all we can while we have our health?  Blunt reality:  if you die tomorrow, will you be able to say you lived life well and to the fullest?

The Dash

Ostaseski goes on to say, “We cannot be truly alive without maintaining an awareness of death. There is no separation between life and death other than a small hyphen, a thin line that connects the two.  Death is not waiting for us at the end of a long road.  Death is always with us, in the marrow of every passing moment.  She is the secret teacher hiding in plain sight.  She helps us to discover what matters most.”

My guess is that you have seen or heard about this poem.  Perhaps on a blanket or in a beautiful frame or carved into stone.  A memento given to a family at the time of a funeral.  It certainly is a comforting reminder of a loved one.  I’m going out on a limb here and asking the “in your face” question:  how many of you are truly living the life mentioned in the poem?  I try, but sometimes fail.  I know it’s something I am committed to changing.
Live Like We're Dying Part Two

This is especially important when I think of all the death I have personally experienced.

Physical death is very painful and heartbreaking as we know.  Whether by disease, accident, overdose, suicide, murder, or plain old age, it’s never easy.  Grief consumes us, we get lonely, our souls ache for their presence.  The hardest, in my opinion, are when young children die or when we lose someone unexpectedly. The hurt never fully goes away and we are left behind to deal with a new normal.

What I believe is more heartbreaking than physical death though, is to watch people who, while physically present in their bodies, make the decision to simply exist rather than truly live.  I am not referring to anyone incapacitated by mental or physical illnesses or those trapped by abuses. I am referring to those who consciously make a choice day in and day out to not grab life by the reigns and ride like the wind as often as possible.

There are many good people out there doing good things.  But…there are so many whose behaviors I will never understand.  These are the people who seem to be merely existing.  (As a side note, yes, I done things as well that I’m certainly not proud of; I don’t get off the hook here.  There are many times I was merely existing.  In doing this, I negatively impacted myself and others).  Some examples of merely existing can be found in these types of behaviors:

  • Bullying (the worst is on social media where one doesn’t even have the courage to show his/her face)
  • Violence and a complete disregard for fellow human beings
  • Selfishness (not sharing our time, talent, resources, etc. with others)
  • Greed (large corporations, CEO’s, pharmaceutical companies, family members)
  • Living in Ego (abuses of power sometimes as a result of his/her own past abuse or narcissistic personality)
  • Lies (this includes the withholding of information)
  • Choosing to not find beauty in the ordinary or not choosing joy daily
  • Failure to communicate (not getting beyond how’s the weather; not having ALL of the necessary conversations including the difficult ones; living with the choices others make for us)
  • Choosing to be disrespectful, controlling, unkind, unloving, and without compassion
  • Negative self-talk (living in guilt and/or shame about our bodies, the way we parent, the foods we eat; convincing ourselves we aren’t worthy)
  • Letting others rattle us when it comes to our religion, sexual orientation, race, gender, occupation, etc.
  • Making mountains out of mole hills
  • Believing that our mistakes, shortcomings and failure define us
  • Living in a constant state of fear

I could go on and on with this list and yes, I cringed when writing this list, because I have done some of these things.  However, there is hope.  We don’t have to choose these things and we don’t have to put up with these behaviors from others.  All of these negative behaviors— is this how we want to live our “dash”?

Back to the question:  If you die tomorrow, will you be able to say you balanced work and family life well?  Have you given enough of your time to others?  Do you laugh enough; love enough?  How much time have you spent working hard at a job for a company that thinks nothing of your worth and will replace you faster than you can bat your eyes?  Do you spend enough time with children, family, and friends?  Do you look for the free, inexpensive things that you can do in your own town or on a day trip that can result in as many cherished memories as those from an extravagant trip?  Do you take care of yourself (especially without anyone, including yourself, making you feel guilty for doing so)?

Lesson 2

The delay of your manifestation is often brought on by the requirement of needing to learn more about yourself:  an aspect, habit, or tendency that must be changed in order to be fully receptive to what it is that you seek.  Doing the same thing & expecting a different result is a sure-fire way to exhaust even the most virtuous creator.  Show up for yourself in all areas of YOUR life  No longer pacify situations that do not serve you.  Speak up when your norm has been one of silence.  Express how it is that you really feel.  Assume the reigns of YOUR life & forge ahead into the direction of YOUR dreams.  Only you can make it so.  Show up for yourself!  You’ve been privileged to experience this life as YOU!

The folks at @momentaryhappiness tell us this:  “Life is too damn short to live in a mediocre way.  Wake up with a purpose and make the best of each day and your short time on this earth.  Stop saying “I’ll do this when I have more money” or “I’ll start when I am more settled.”  Stop making excuses.  What if I told you that all you need is what you have right now.  That’s all you need to just make a start.  It doesn’t matter if you’re 17 or 50, set your alarm for tomorrow morning and wake up with a purpose.  Always give your best and live your best life.  Don’t let the years just pass you by — because we don’t get another chance.  This is it!”

Perhaps, it just might be this simple:  a large part of each of our purposes is to live like we’re dying!

What time will your alarm be set for tomorrow? 🙂

Stayed tuned for parts 3 & 4!