Knowing that all things must come to an end

This time, let’s start with an insight that’s usually perceived as rather gloomy: we will all eventually die. Sooner or later The Big Release arrives. A simple truth and for many something like a platitude.

Centuries ago the phrase “Memento Mori” was propagated: Latin for remember you must die or be aware of your mortality. This was mainly used as a (religious) argument to lead a sober and proper life, so as to assure a place in paradise in the afterlife. Nowadays, more and more people see this way of thinking as old-fashioned and assume that we have to make the best of our – one and only – life. Death is seen as the final end of everything: the end of our existence (in every conceivable form).

Perhaps this modern way of thinking stems from the fact that, in our society, we’re inclined to neglect thoughts about death. Of course it’s understandable that we’d like to focus more on what’s living and vibrant, rather than on what’s arduous and/or dying. We’d rather have fun and enjoy ourselves, instead of having to grieve and trying to let go. We all celebrate the birth of a life extensively, plus all the following birthdays, but the fact that each life has to have an end is something we usually find difficult to accept. We do not know what happens to ourselves exactly after death; it’s this realization that makes us uncertain. And uncertainty is increasingly seen in today’s society as an undesirable part of our existence.

So we’d rather not deal with death, until we are forced to face it. When this happens, the emotional impact can be quite deep. Of course it’s a dramatic event if someone dies prematurely – for example by an illness or an accident. A lot of time and support is needed for the grieving process and to accept the loss. But even if someone dies of a natural cause like old age, it can be very difficult for the people that are being left behind.

Farewell and letting go are themes that occur every now and then in a lifetime. They form an integral part of our existence, so why isn’t this a permanent part of our education? We should be better informed on these subjects. Of course there will always be situations you cannot be prepared for, simply because you’ll only know how it really feels when you’re experiencing it yourselves. But we are able to realize (and we could try to accept) that these things are an unmistakable part of life. Not an easy task, yet one from which we can benefit for the rest of our lives.

And strange as it may sound: the end of a life could also be an inspiration to us. This is the moment we can use to reflect on questions like: “what gives real meaning to our lives? What do we find important in our lives, and why? Do we actively integrate these important things in our life, and if not, why not? What did we want to achieve in life, and why?  Did this come true? If not, why not? What do we still want to achieve in our lives, and why?”

The answers to above questions may sometimes lead to a new direction in life. And so we find that an uncomfortable topic like death can also be enriching.

Franklin Heilbron, blogger and spiritual life coach, lives and coaches in Amsterdam (The Netherlands). He loves life, loves people, hugely enjoys intelligent conversations, and can be deeply moved by beautiful sounds and images.

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