Having spent years working in hospice, I became comfortable talking about death.
As a matter of fact, I learned that hospice is the place where life is really the main focus. Contrary to what most people think about hospice, it is all about squeezing the most life out of the days that are left.
The everyday questions are: “How do you want to spend the day?” “Is there something you would like to accomplish?” “What is important to you?”
When I was 19, my young 55-year-old father died of a massive heart attack. He did not have the opportunity to contemplate or prepare for his death. Some say that his was the death of kings — to die suddenly with no suffering. But the sadness is that there are no final moments to squeeze out more life.
In her weekly blog called Brain Pickings, Maria Popova published an article called “How to Live with Death.” She writes, “Our lifelong struggle to learn how to live is inseparable from two facts only: that of our mortality and that of our dread of it.”
Aging is a little bit of dying every day. As John Updike wrote, “Each day, we wake slightly altered, and the person we were yesterday is dead, so why … be afraid of death, when death comes all the time?”
This sounds a little flippant about a subject of such importance, but the truth is that death is the organizing principle of life. With no death, there is no life. Death scares us into experiencing life.
Daniel Friedland, physician and author of “Leading Well From Within,” confronted his own mortality with a sudden Stage 4 brain cancer diagnosis. As he considered his plight while alone in a hospital room, his mind raced to questions, “What will my family do?” “How can I confront this?”
He called his cancer diagnosis his inflection point, and he was aware that he was asking questions that would not help him move forward. He turned his mind to more powerful questions. “What matters most now?” “How can I make every moment count?”
As we grow older, we are face to face with mortality. It is our gift if we choose to ask the right questions.
We have no idea if we have one hour or 30 years to live. We can ask the helpful questions right now: “What matters most now, and how can I make every moment count?”
We must listen closely for the answers because the answers will shape our lives. What do you plan to squeeze out of your amazing life?
Find Connie’s new book, “Daily Cures: Wisdom for Healthy Aging,” at www.justnowoldenough.com.