I’ve been alive for thirty years, and yet I can’t help but feel that I have only truly lived a fraction of that time. I’ve forgotten what’s important to me. Everyday I forget. And everyday I have to force myself to remember. I get so caught up in doing the things I think I need to do, that I forget what I actually need to do. Then again, I don’t blame myself; I can’t, because perhaps, I often ponder – …perhaps, this is just human nature.
We are complex, forgetful creatures. We live like we’re going to live forever. In youth, we leave the remembrance of death to those who may be nearing it themselves. And then, one day, when someone we love, someone we know, someone we shared a smile with, passes away, we feel incredibly vulnerable. Just like that, a life ends. And just like that, their passing rattles the very foundation of our existence, sending a shockwave through our hearts.
I’m not here to chastise this forgetfulness, because I, too, am guilty of it, but I do often wonder why. I wonder why we find ourselves so caught up in to-do lists, and yet, when we come close to death, we suddenly remember our bucket lists. We then focus on how precious, short, and valuable life really is. I wonder why the mere acknowledgement of death takes us from a state of perpetual forgetfulness, to mindfulness and appreciation. So, I’ve come to believe, through several lessons & through the passing of dear loved ones, that the key to contentment in life …is embracing death. Some may interpret this as melancholic, but I promise it most certainly is not; it’s actually quite beautiful.
You see, humans are the only intelligent beings that, at some point in development, understand that they are going to die; we are the only animals with an awareness of our own transience. And because of this highly developed cognition, we also seek meaning and purpose in our lives, which is why so many of us set ourselves on larger-than-life quests and projects. From raising children to business empires, from building images to standing for a cause, we engage ourselves in ideas that transcend our existential crises, in hopes that we feel significance through something we value, something that continues to grow after we pass.
Remembering that I’m going to die – remembering that it could be any day – brings me closer to the truth of the matter: that our time is limited. I want my legacy to be one of compassion. Anyone I’m ever going to meet – every person that exists on this planet – is either going to die, or they’re going to live long enough to lose all their loved ones first. I don’t need to keep losing people to understand this. I need no other reason to be a compassionate human being. For when my life expires, my tombstone will carry two dates, one for my birth, and one for my death. Between those two dates will be a small dash, and that dash is going to mean something to every person whose path I had ever crossed.
May your dash be brilliant and fulfilling.