What Death Teaches Us About Life

I went to a funeral yesterday. One of Christine’s relatives died suddenly over the weekend. The deceased was dearly loved by many, and the loss was a tragedy. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone that loses a loved one.

But as I experienced the outpouring of love for this individual, I found the ceremony uplifting and positive.

Death and loss is a conundrum – a dilemma. While the pain and loss of death is immense, without a limit to our time on earth, our time would have no value and our painful losses remind us to be grateful for what we have now.

These are a few thoughts I had yesterday while reflecting on the loss of life

  • Every moment is precious
  • Ego and materialism are insignificant in the face of death
  • Question the meaning of your life
  • As long as you have one more moment, you can make a difference
  • This isn’t about me, it’s about all the people I touch along the way
  • The faith and courage with which some people face death is a testimony to the human spirit

Aurelius Marcus, believed by many to be the wisest and most tolerant emperor of Rome wrote the following about facing death:

You have embarked, you have made the voyage, you have come to the shore: get out.

You have existed as a part. You shall disappear in that which produced you; or rather, you shall be received back into its seminal principle by transmutation.

Pass then through this little space of time conformably to nature, and end your journey in content, just as an olive falls off when it is ripe, blessing nature who produced it, and thanking the tree on which it grew.

Every part of me will be reduced by change into some part of the universe, and that again will change into another part of the universe, and so on forever.

And by consequence of such a change I too exist, and those who begot me, and so on forever in the other direction.

– Aurelius Marcus

10 thoughts on “What Death Teaches Us About Life”

  1. Steve,

    My condolences on the loss to you and the people that care about. I’ve been to a few funerals, and your ability to see the “upside” is admirable.

    Your list of reflections that the experience has left you with will bring value to anyone who reads that list. I was originally going to pick out a favorite, but I think I like them all just the same.

    Personally, I believe that we “return from whence we came” and that physical death is just the end of this chapter. I think we are here to learn, and to transmit what we have learned back to the creative source.

    That being the case, learning is not an option, but rather a part of life itself.

    Thanks for this post. All my best.

    – Aaron

  2. “Death and loss is a conundrum – a dilemma. While the pain and loss of death is immense, without a limit to our time on earth, our time would have no value and our painful losses remind us to be grateful for what we have now.”

    This is just a rationalization of death as a good thing.

    It is required only in a society that can’t do anything about aging.

    Luckily, today we’ve got http://www.sens.org and http://www.mprize.org.

    Oh, sure… we’d all like to believe that ‘we are just here to learn’ and that ‘this life is just a phase’ and that ‘there is more life after this one’…

    But come on… deep down inside, we all know we’re going back to where we were before we were conceived/born: The Ultimate Nothingness.

    And you know that The Ultimate Nothingness is, right?

    That’s the period of billions of years from the Big Bang to your first conscious moment that went by in absolutely no time whatsoever.

    The sites http://www.sens.org and http://www.longevitymeme.org do a good job debunking and dismantling all sorts of obsolete pro-death rationalizations.

    It’s worth a look if you’re serious about living forever.

  3. So sorry to you and Christine for your loss. 🙁

    This kind of empowering attitude has been easy for me to embrace with the loved ones I have lost, because they have all been older and suffering.

    It’s much more difficult to focus on the positive when you lose someone unexpectedly as you have. It’s a testament to the great person you are. 🙂

  4. Pingback: Today is that Day
  5. Hi Steve,

    I’ve been reading your excellent blog for a while, it is time for a comment.

    My first impression after reading this was that these days it is a bravery to write about this subject at all. Death and mourning are so banished from our lives that we don’t even recognize their right to step in whenever they please. The feeling of insignificance, as you point out, is what seems to me the biggest issue here. It is not the wasted time and regrets, but merely the fear of our ego that we do not count in front of death. Quite sobering. I’ve lost a few close friends and relatives. There is no other experience in life that can raise so high the level awareness regarding the value of life. And also diminish the ego without leaving any option to appeal.

    One more thing. Facing death has always the same impact, whether you say that you’ve been through it before or not.

  6. Hi Steve

    Read up Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. The book teaches all that since we know we’re all going to die, to be prepared for it at any time – meaning to be more involved in your life while you’re still living.

    Great post..


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