Unedited Thoughts Before A Funeral

People don’t know how to react to death.  I think there are two (probably infinitely more) reasons that spring to mind immediately as to why.  One, they are scared of it and they have avoided thinking about it or being anywhere near it for the vast majority of their lives.  The other reason I can immediately think of is they are glad it wasn’t them and their lives will continue on with a void, if it was someone they knew, but it will continue and they feel guilty about that.

I don’t necessarily understand why people are scared of death and definitely don’t see why they should feel guilty for being glad to be alive.

Death is unknown to us, thus the fear most people have of it.  However, why do we fear the things we do not know?  That is question I often ask as I see this fear in ways great and small throughout the day.  People often freeze when making decisions for even mundane and meaningless things because they don’t know what will happen or how things will change.

I work in retail and every day I watch customers stare at faucets or countertops or cabinets unable to make the most basic decisions because they are afraid of this thing that is different from the things they have always known.  They cannot or will not see the possibilities of this new thing and it freezes them.

Something like death is something so monumental that it is no wonder people freeze when thinking of it.  They don’t know how to deal with it because they have avoided thinking of it for their whole lives.  When they do think of it, it is in the context of loss, specifically their loss.  They are most affected by the hole left in their lives.  If they are good people, and most people are good people, they are also sad that the people closest to the deceased no longer have that person in their lives and they are sad that the deceased is no longer here to enjoy this life, to see another sunset.

They are also affected by the thing they don’t want to talk about, that they are glad they are not dead.  They are happy to be alive.  To me that is what funerals and wakes are supposed to be for.  They are to lay the deceased to rest, but also to give us a way to celebrate their life and our own continued existence.  These events should celebrate life and find the joy in its continuation and remind us that our time on Earth is short and we should live it to the fullest.  We should feel no guilt for being glad to be alive.

Your death bed is the time when you should not have regrets for the things you didn’t even try.  It is expected you will fall short sometimes and have disappointments.  Everyone who has lived has dealt with disappointment.  However, those disappointments should stem from trying things, living life.  That is what death teaches me.

If you have ever studied Zen Buddhism you have probably been instructed to contempt daily on this simple saying, “I may die today.”  You do this to make you think that you may die today and ask yourself if you have lived a life worth leaving behind.  If you were to die today, were your last acts in this life worthy of your life.

I started writing every day the day I read those words.  This is what death teaches me:  Live your life as best you can by treating others as you wish to be treated and leave no regrets by finding your passion and following it to its conclusion.  You will be successful, maybe not rich or famous, but when you die the people you touched will throw a hell of a party to remember you.

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