Death as Our Teacher

As a child, I thought about death a lot. I feared an early death for myself. Want to know something strange? Every time I went on a trip when I was young, I left a letter, sealed in an envelope, with the words, “In the Event of My Death.” Inside was a letter assuring my mother that I lived a full and happy life and if I died, please know, I was at peace with that outcome.

I think I got that idea from her. She kept a journal on the bookshelf that she wrote in when I was a baby and there was an entry that said, “Know Rachel, should anything ever happen to me, that you made my life complete.”  I would sit and read that when I was young and cry.

As I aged, I quit writing death letters, but I did make sure that if I was leaving on a road trip, or a jet plane, that I left my home in an organized fashion, bed made, and that I had on nice underwear.  It’s as if I am always preparing for the moment of my death, as I just never know when I will breath out, and not breathe in again. Come to think of it, I think I’ll post this blog early, and not wait until the morning, as I just can’t be sure that I will wake up. If I do, let’s celebrate! (Another day of living…) Who sings that song?

When I was in college, my grandfather died. His death was the first I ever experienced in my family. His kids and I sifted through his home and trashed a huge amount of stuff. I remember my dazed awe as I watched my uncle fill the dumpster we rented that spanned the length of the driveway.

Really?! I thought. We collect all that junk and then our children throw it out!? Ever since then I have been a habitual clutter -clearer. I don’t want to leave a suffocating mess for whomever has to trash my stuff when I die. I think I am incredibly thoughtful.

When I have a big decision to make, I contemplate death. The first time I decided to leave work for a week and take off on short notice to Burning Man, I thought, If I died soon, this is definitely what I would do.

When I was deciding to leave my career, I thought in a similar way. If I knew this was the last year of my life, I would make this leap and take this time off to pursue my creativity.

This line of thinking is especially helpful when it comes to my mom. Sometimes I get so mad at her and then I think, when she is gone, I will so wish for another moment to be with her. That thought can immediately make me cry and then I let go of my anger and remember I love her so.

Death is a part of life and I suppose thinking of it often reminds me to live more fully. If I deny the truth that any moment could be my last, then I take living for granted.

I can get so unhappy with my errands to run, my items to fix, my never-ending to do lists, that I pretend that life is a chore, instead of a miracle to be milked, daily. It’s like the teats of a cow. I heard once they hurt, or get backed up or something, if you don’t milk them regularly.  Life is like a cow’s teat. We have to milk it regularly.

So, I invite you to take a look at your life, if you knew you were going to die in a year, or six months, or a week, what would you do differently?

I think I would go to Burning Man again.

Let us bravely live well enough to contemplate death, so that we don’t waste a precious moment of this human birth.

We all will die. Instead of that being a morbid thought, let it be an inspiring reminder to seek your bliss, now. What are you waiting for?

In case I die soon, please know that I love you so. Know that I really love life. A lot. Know that I feel complete and full and that I died following my heart, pursuing my dreams, contemplating bliss and knowing the ultimate truth of all, that there really is no death, only transitions, as we journey on…

In love,

Rachel Claire


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