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A guide for dying as a manual for Life

Why is it that we fear talking about death? Why is it that we live our lives as if death is something that doesn’t happen to us – until we are told that it does?

Have you played that game with friends, you know, the one where you say, “If I had three months to live, I would do X, Y and Z”? So, why is it that we only really think about the things we want, the things that bring us comfort, that inspire us, that make us feel truly alive, when we are thinking that the end is in sight?

What if we lived our life each day with that sense of inspiration and fullness and deep satisfaction?

I’m going to push another idea out there – imagine if actively coming face to philosophical-face with the concept of your own death brought you more in sync with the things that can make your life, your life right now, more magnificent? And if magnificent feels too preposterous, maybe just more real.

None of us come into life with a manual but imagine if we could go out of life with one.

Imagine if you captured on paper, the things that make your soul sing; the things that you hold dear; the way you’d like to be cared for; the moments that you believe would bring comfort either together, or alone. Imagine starting now on capturing the deepest parts of you to leave as a legacy gift for those you leave behind. A chance for you to be truly seen. A chance for those who love you the most, to see you, to truly see you.

None of us come into life with a manual but imagine if we could go out of life with one.

Imagine creating a guidebook to help them help you, as the end draws near.

Ok, so I am going to back the truck up a little here. Because to me it seems like a wasted opportunity to figure what you want, only at the very end; when, if you can acknowledge that dying is part of living, you can take that same opportunity to make every moment count, but do it right now.

So, imagine taking that book and living your life on every page, on every day. Having thought about the things that matter before they are lost, why not grab them with both hands and run with them? Be the person you harbour inside yourself. How would that feel? How, amazing, how authentic could that be? How would that make your soul sing?

I have had the absolute privilege of being called to help people as they prepare for their death. I have been with people as they took their last breath. I have washed the bodies of the dead with a reverence and care we seldom see with the living. It is beautiful work, trying to help people pass with more peace, to carve out the sacred space for their beath and expression as the room closes in. And in all this dying, I have found myself thinking about life more and more.

Life is something that unfolds and unfolds and death is a slow unwinding of body and soul and in that unwinding there is a person that someone loves, that I have loved.  I do wish to navigate that unfolding and unwinding with as much grace as I can.

And if I could offer a gift to any of these passed on souls, it would be that we talked earlier, that they enabled the idea of death to teach them about life. I have seen the families around the bedside and the looks in the eyes of conversations that can no longer be had. I have seen the helplessness of not-knowingness and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.

And so now each day I settle more comfortably into the idea of death being my teacher. In knowing that it will, in time, at some time of its own making, happen to me, I can look it in the face and ask it what it can teach me, and receive the lessons here and now.

This doesn’t mean I walk around life waiting to be run over by a bus, of struck by lightning, or rung by the doctor with sombre tones. What it means is that I can explore what really matters to me. And yes, I’m still working it out. But in working it out I am writing my book of dying, which is turning out to be my manual for life.

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