Living and Death: Thanks for everything (Guest Voice)
My field is working with death and grief. “Isn’t it morbid?,” people ask at parties. “Aren’t you sad all the time?” All the time, no. When I’m living through a personal loss, yes, it’s sadder than anyone else can imagine. But between my own terrible losses, I have life, amazing moments, humbling sights, a planet worth protecting, a hunger for truth, and the full, precious feeling of love in my heart. How do those things go together with death?
Well, ‘morbid’ is a personal interpretation. It could also be said that death is profound, a release from suffering, a journey, The Unknown, the enemy, a contemplation, frightening, going home, mysterious, or The Last Great Adventure, depending on your disposition and where you are in your life.
To me, sitting here in a healthy body, considering death gives me the gift of time. I have time to contemplate what it will be like when I have to leave behind all the things I love. Is that morbid, no. It will be extraordinarily sad, if I project ahead. But what if I don’t? What if I sit here and really really deeply look into the eyes of those I love and tell them? What if I refuse to waste a minute of time being careless? What if I do all the things I really want to do, small or grand? Will it stop me from dying? No, but I’ll have fewer regrets about how I lived. And that is no small gift.
So, if it’s just too hard to sit down to coffee with Death and negotiate your situation, try spending one minute every day jotting down things you are grateful for or in love with. For me it has the double effect of reminding me how much I have and reminding me how good that feels. We have so many things each day to see as blessings and nothing, ever, that we should take for granted. Here are 44 things that I loved last week.
My perfectly imperfect husband
That my dog loved me
The miracle of hot water coming out of a faucet right inside my house
Trusting that after all these years, I can get through anything
My fearless and amazing friends
Tasting Velveeta and having my whole childhood spring up before me
Never having to taste Velveeta again
Quiet mist over McIntosh Lake at sunrise
A broken bathroom scale
That haircuts grow out
Tomatoes and lettuce from my own garden
Color and light
Jeff’s hot homemade jalapeno cornbread
The shape of tulips
My computer and iPhone
That I don’t really look like I do on Apple Facetime
A robust Cabernet
Brie with anything layered in it. Figs. Garlic. Dirt. I don’t care.
My own washer and dryer
The smell of balsam fir
Little Drummer Boy
Being able to cry deeply and then let it pass
Clean sheets and heavy blankets
Having enough food
Long distance telephone
A friend who will poke me right before I start snoring in the theater
Having a friend who can’t stop laughing when I poke her back
Remembering my parents every day
Reframing “The Early Bird Special” as “Happy Hour”
Waking up in the morning without an alarm clock
Hearing coyotes and owls outside my window at night
Being able to breathe with no effort
Being able to turn off the news when I need to
Watching little kids do the happy dance
Feeling safe when I’m walking in my neighborhood
Remembering that every day could be my last and filling it as much as I can with love and glee
So, what were the three best things that happened to you today?
Kim Mooney has worked over two decades as a certified Thanatologist (student of death) in the field of dying, death, and grief with hospices and a variety of different communities. Through her company, Practically Dying, LLC, she provides consultations, workshops, presentations and advance care planning, with a view toward remembering that everything we learn about death teaches us how to live every precious day our lives more fully. And she’s still fun at parties. www.practically-dying.com Facebook page Practically Dying