Update: a couple of weeks after writing this article the number grew to 5 deaths in 6 weeks.
Death is wonderful.
Seriously. It is literally something that is full of wonder. Well, it makes me wonder anyway. In ways that I haven’t wondered before.
I’ve recently been affected by 3 deaths that were close enough to stir up an emotional response. They all happened within a period of 10 days which certainly grabbed my attention.
When a few life events or experiences happen in a short period, the wisest thing to do is stop and reflect on what’s happening.
This is because the world around you is trying to get your attention. It’s trying to show you something that you can’t see. These are lessons disguised as challenges or obstacles.
It can also mean something else more powerful. Anything that’s taking place outside of you, is actually taking place within you.
I know that’s deep, and I’ll explain that later.
The first thing I want to discuss is grief. What a messed-up emotion that is!
Ultimately, it’s purely the perception that you’re experiencing a loss in your life. This loss, depending on the severity, leads to tears or crying. But what if you didn’t like the person that’s now ‘gone’? Then you won’t grieve the loss of that person. Funny how that works.
If you resent, despise or just straight out hate something or someone in your life, then you don’t fear the loss of them.
In fact, you may even look forward to them leaving, disappearing or dare I say, looking forward to them actually dying so you don’t have to deal with them anymore. I know that sounds harsh but it’s true.
So if that’s true for the annoying and frustrating people in our life then what does that say about the people we admire and look up to in our lives?
Well, anyone that you look up to or admire, you end up fearing the loss of them. There are things in your life you can live without and then others that you believe you can’t live without. If someone you have in your life frustrates and angers you enough to resent them and they died, I can guarantee you won’t miss all the bad things about them, but you somehow manage to, suddenly, remember all of these good things about them.
Death works wonders that way.
Death then causes an interesting response in people. Because of the pain of the grief or loss that you’re experiencing, you tend to focus on the ‘good’ memories of that person to ease the pain. Little do you realise that the more good memories you focus on, the greater you make the pain of the grief.
The greater the positive you’re holding onto, the greater the negative pain feels to balance it out.
People tend to hold onto only the good traits and experiences with that person. In a way that is a way of trying to keep them alive in their minds. But if you were given the opportunity to bring everything back about that person, I bet, you don’t want the annoying and frustrating traits about them. You didn’t want those things while they were alive, so why would you want those traits back after death?
The more you try to forget and erase the bad memories of this person, the more you begin to create a false memory of them.
The truth is that they were both good and bad, annoying and amusing, caring and careless, inspiring and depressing. If you try to forget all the bad stuff about them when they’re dead, then you are trying to erase half of who they fundamentally were as a person.
Reread that last sentence…
I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be remembered to be only good. I’m only good half of the time. If that’s all I’m remembered for, then the other half of my life was a complete waste.
Those things that are so-called ‘bad’ were also helping people. But that’s a topic for another day.
While I was listening to the eulogy at one of the funerals it got me thinking about how I want to be remembered. Then a memory of something a mentor of mine said to me.
He said to spend some time writing your own eulogy. Write it as if all your family had to do was read it at your funeral without any edits or changes. Write it as if you lived up to what’s on that page. Do it without sounding like you’re writing about some superhero. Write it like you’re writing your future out and how you want to be remembered by the people who love you and the people who live beyond you.
Doing this is a little strange at first, I’ll admit, but don’t leave it up to others to tell the world about how you lived. You can write it out and live it out the way you wrote it. It gives a new meaning to ‘write your own story’. It reaffirms how much control you really have over your life.
The other thing I noticed, was at one of the funerals there was a room full of people mourning the death of a person who didn’t have a ‘good’ reputation while he was alive. He was apparently filled with anger and resentment.
While most people believed this person resented the people and world around them, truthfully, they didn’t. The truth is, that anything we resent and hate in the world and people around us, we really resent within ourselves.
This person, while being judged for their anger and resentment issues, was truthfully beating themselves up while they were alive. They didn’t value themselves. There were things that they had done, they felt total shame and guilt about, like all of us, and when they saw those ‘ugly’ or ‘bad’ parts of themselves show up in other people, their resentment and anger would surface. This is the same for everyone by the way.
Through this person’s death, they taught me something extremely valuable that day. You don’t get to take your resentment and anger with you. You can choose to hold onto it for as long as humanly possible, but the moment you’re gone. At that split second, your heart stops and the oxygen stops circulating, so does the resentment and anger. In most cases, you actually experience a profound amount of appreciation for those closest to you.
We have an opportunity to learn to love and embrace the things we detest about ourselves AND others.
We are given the gift of finding a way to fully appreciate and love the challenges, discomforts, obstacles and confrontations in our lives. They’re in our lives for a reason. The wisest thing to do is look for the lesson. These events are an opportunity to learn something new about yourself. The ability to turn an obstacle into a stepping stone.
Don’t waste your time fixating on the idea that whatever is in the way is stopping you on the way. You’re limiting yourself and your life by doing so. Give yourself the opportunity to look at it differently. To look at life differently. Look for the opportunity. The lesson that is disguised as a challenge.
This leads me to my next learning…
…Earlier I said that anything taking place outside of you is taking place within. When I’m not ok with something that has taken place, I look for where it’s taking place within me. Yep. Within.
Our world and the experiences we have are reflecting back to us parts that we can’t see. You use a mirror daily to look at parts of yourself that you can’t see from where your eyes are positioned. So use that analogy for parts of yourself that you don’t like to see. The parts you’re not ok with and refuse to look at in the mirror.
I’m not talking about your physical parts. I’m talking about characteristics you have and things you’ve done in the past that you judge yourself for. In truth, anything you judge about the world (your mirror) you actually judge about yourself.
Think about it this way. Can you point to the mirror and say ‘my reflection has that, but the real me doesn’t’? No way! Your reflection is you! So the more you try to disown parts of yourself the more they show up in your environment. This environment can be work colleagues, family, the kids, parents, siblings, friends, and even strangers.
This is why I chose to look within while I was sitting in the chapel at this person’s funeral. I asked myself ‘what can I learn from this?’ ‘What is this person teaching me through their death?’ The answer flawed me. I felt it hit me square in the face and it gives me shivers as I write this.
I realised that I wasn’t living…
Now I know, biologically, I am. My heart’s beating and my lungs are expanding and deflating, circulating blood. But I wasn’t living. I wasn’t going out and doing what I truly want to be doing with my life. Certainly not in the way that I want to anyway.
Here’s how I see it. There are 3 stages of living;
Living – This is living the life you want for yourself. This is being you, without exception. Finding a way to spend your time doing more of what inspires you. Even in the smaller things like walking in a park or going for a drive.
Surviving – I actually call this ‘Not Dying’. That’s what it really is. This is most of our population. Doing everything they can to not die. Getting by, the same old, nothing new, complacent, staying within their comfort zone, subordinating to someone or something they believe will punish them if they let their true selves out.
Dying – This is that moment when people let go of their desire to survive and are willing to be taken away by death. Some people are willing to succumb to death just before they choose to live.
This may seem morbid. But stop and think. Are you living or are you not dying?
The people who are truly living would rather pick death over surviving. Because to them, surviving is killing a big part of themselves. It’s a form of death in their eyes.
Choose life. But don’t choose it lightly. You’re here for a reason. A very specific reason. And It’s your duty to spend your life finding out what that is and sharing that with whoever you’re spending your life with.
It doesn’t have to be with millions of people. It can be your family or maybe just your partner. I guarantee it will be the most fulfilling experience you’ll ever have because you’re allowing who you really are out. You’re showing people who you really are. The real you. Your Genius.
It doesn’t happen overnight. But the decision to live takes only a moment. Commit to living.
Let this person’s life and death, along with all others you’ve been affected by, be your inspiration, like it is mine. Don’t survive with anger and resentment. Go and live with some level of appreciation for the life you’ve been given.
Click here for Part II of What I Learnt From 3 Deaths In 10 Days.