Wisdom and perspective comes not just from getting older, or from living or experiencing the ups and downs of life. It also comes from contemplating the endings – of life as we know it. From death.
“Seeing the end of something precious to you gives you the chance of loving it well” says Stephen Jenkinson.
And yet in our current time and culture when endings seem to be all around us – extinctions of beloved animals, destruction of parts of the planet itself, we don’t seem to be “loving it well”.
I ask myself – why aren’t I doing more? Don’t I care enough? Isn’t it all precious? Am I that self-absorbed, needy, dependent (you fill in the blank from your own sense of things)? But still I can’t guilt or scare or shame myself to action.
I think the clue is in the first part of the quote. Yes, it is precious. Life is precious. And it is in looking squarely, openly, even fear-fully at death – or “the end of something” that gives us the spark to love it well. But how do we prepare ourselves to look at the ending or death of that which we hold precious that is outside ourselves if we can’t look at our own endings or death? And for a lot of us, we fear death so why would we ever look at it?
As I write this it is the start of a new year, a new time, a new page. Perhaps a ripe time to receive this call to a new adventure.
Contemplating death, specifically our own death, may not sound like much of an adventure. Life is for the living! Life is good! Get out there and do it! That sounds like more of an adventure perhaps to you.
But say we got it backwards? Maybe we should be saying death and life instead of focusing on life first. “Life doesn’t feed on life. Death feeds life” says Stephen Jenkinson. Just think of pretty much any meal you eat, vegan, vegetarian or not and you’ll see what he means.
So I’m inviting the courageous explorers – or even the curious seekers among you to join me in an adventure…to imagine that this is the last year of your life. To contemplate your death in exactly one year from whatever this date is.
If this is your last New Year, or your last (fill in the date) what would you do? If you had one more year to contribute to this world, to hold your loved ones close, to laugh and cry and play and work – what choices would you make? Or not make?
To help you along the way – I’ve got a few suggestions or exercises you might want to try.
- Draw your own death. Get out the pencil crayons (I know you have them all you adult colouring book fans) and a blank piece of paper and see what comes up. This was mine I did years ago…
- List all the things you want to start/stop and continue on this last journey around the sun. Maybe you think about your work. Or significant relationships. Maybe you want to travel somewhere. Maybe it’s something you want to stop doing – like worrying or being afraid of things. Maybe it’s things that you like doing and want to keep doing. Just take some time and capture whatever comes to mind.
- Tell someone one message you want to share before your time is up. What one thing do you have in you that you don’t want to go to the grave with?
I’m going to be sharing some of my “last year” here every month. That’s an important thing for me to “start” doing this year. Sharing my “music” or gems instead of keeping them inside.
I’d love to hear from you about your journey! Just send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org
Adventures are always more fun when they are shared.