Many of us fear this event called death, eventhough it is something that is inevitable – why do we fear dying? Where does the fear come from? Is it the unknown? Is it leaving things behind? What if we got to a place where we embraced dying because we knew that what we leave behind is for the better. The people, the places, the world is a better place because of our lives. What if we knew that our death unlocked the potential in others to live out our mission? What if hrough death, we can learn how to live a life worth living …to be remembered …to leave a legacy? Should we fear that?
When I witnessed my mother die in the hospital room at the age of 20 years old, I can see the “life” leave her body. I can see the emptiness inside of her. I can see the beauty just fade away. Some might say her soul moved on. Or her energy moved on. Or her life is just over and that’s it. I do not know what the answer is, but I do know what she left to me. She left a fight inside of me. She left me with compassion. She left me with many life lessons on how to serve other people, the importance of family, the importance of loving those in my life, the ability to accept challenges and continue through them, and the importance of taking care of my body and managing my mind.
When I saw my best friend in a casket at age 25 years old because of a fatal car crash, I couldnt recognize him without his smile. It was simply a body laying there. His father said “Mike, dont you want to say something to your friend?” I responded with “That’s just a body in there, my friend is no longer in front of me.” I am unsure whether I believe his energy was all around me, or if his soul traveled to another life form, but I can for sure know that my best friend, my brother, was not in front of me at that moment. Eventhough Nick is not here today, he left me with many lessons about living. I used to avoid the topic of death, but now I know in an instance my life can be taken away. I learned through Nick to appreciate what I have currently, while continuing to create a better life for those around me when I am gone. I experienced a funeral home that could not fit the amount of people that Nick impacted in his short 25 years. I felt moved by his legacy in order to create mine.
When I saw the photos of my family, there was always a spot next to my brother that was taken by his wife. She was in the family before I was and in fact she used to change my diapers when I was a baby. When I experienced this 50 year old mother of four move on from this life when I was 29 years old, my emotions were numb. I wanted to believe that she is chatting with my mom over a cup of coffee and laughing as they would at our kitchen table, but I dont know. Nobody does. What I do know is that I spoke with her 2 days prior to her dying and I told her that I will be home to visit her in 3 days, meaning I was a day too late. I missed my sister by a day. Tough things to swallow, but our phone conversation made a lasting impression for me. During that phone conversation, Mary said “Michael, I am dying.” My heart sank as I heard these words, but realized immediately that we are all dying. But until we actually leave this life, we are still living. I told her that while she is still here, let’s make the most of it. Let’s capture some of your favorite memories and goals that you have for your kids. She said she will think about that and we will continue talking when I arrive to see her. Now, I am unsure what happened on her end of the conversation after we spoke, but I know I started reading and journaling a few questions to ask her and became determined to help her leave this life knowing that her kids and family will be okay. That her legacy as a mother will be felt. I now get to live my life with these questions and live out the answers.
Experiencing death is always a challenge because of the unanswered questions, the empty feelings, and of course the loss of a loved one. What if there was a way to use the experience of having a loved one die and celebrate their life? Celebrate their existence? Celebrate and share the lessons that we will take from this experience? What if we could share our confessions, our emotions, our thoughts openly without feeling vulnerable, weak, or shameful? What if we can move past the belief system that when someone dies that they are gone and accept that when someone dies they now live their lives through us?
If there is no certain answer about what’s next, than a belief is all we have. What controls our beliefs? We do. Therefore our reality is in our control. We can live in fear of dying or we can live fearlessly. I choose to live fearlessly.