Why we need to change the way we think about death

Why we need to change the way we think about death

We live in a society where fear of death is rampant. We’re fearful that if we talk about death, we may jinx ourselves and bring it closer. We’re fearful that discussing death with our loved ones will cause us pain. So we sweep the whole subject under the rug and hope that we’ll live to a ripe old age — at which point we’ll somehow, hopefully, make peace with coming to the end of our lives.

When you think about it, this is completely nonsensical. Death is one of the only certainties in life. You have never been closer to death than you are at this very moment. Your death is inevitable, just like everyone else’s, yet still we shy away from it.

“This attitude is particularly true in Western culture, in which the self is held sacred and death is considered an unspeakable insult,” writes M. Scott Peck in The Road Less Travelled. “Yet the exact opposite is the reality… it is death that provides life with all its meaning.”

My name is Pam, and I’m here to change the way we think about life and death.

I recently lost my father-in-law, Kevin. Kevin was an entrepreneur; he was cheeky and kind, and most of all, he had a zest for life that I had never seen before. Kevin lived and loved wholeheartedly until his very last breath. He taught me that to live your fullest life, you must contemplate your death. You must consider the finite years you have on this earth and work backwards from there. You must think about the end of your life, plan for it, and then move forward with a life that is authentic and rich in experience.

As Michael Singer writes in The Untethered Soul: “It is truly a great cosmic paradox that one of the best teachers in all of life turns out to be death. No person or situation could ever teach you as much as death has to teach you…The question is, are you going to wait until that last moment to let death be your teacher?”

Our culture doesn’t often think of death as a teacher — rather, we paint it as a grim reaper — a dark and ominous force lurking in the shadows. Yet death doesn’t have to be our enemy: it can be our ally and the most powerful motivator of all. What if we imagined death to be a friend that sits on our shoulder, reminding us to be mindful of each precious moment? How would you live your life differently? How would your priorities change?

Kevin’s death sparked something in me. It forced me to look with a fresh perspective at this thing that we usually avoid, and to think about how we can do it better. I don’t want to live in denial of death any longer — I want to help others to prepare for it by embracing death and celebrating life. I created My Life Capsule as a way to allow people to capture their insights, deepest thoughts and feelings, special photos, videos, stories and end-of-life wishes; a means by which to express an appreciation for life and our mortality sooner rather than later.

At some point, we have to realise that we are both living and dying. This sounds morbid, but really it’s an opportunity for liberation. We get hung up on the living without realising that it’s the dying that makes the living so deliciously enjoyable and important. The fact of death is a fact of life, and the sooner we embrace this fact, the sooner we can start living more purposefully. Look at the certainty of your own death. Look at it, and in doing so see your life with more vividness and colour than ever before.