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A paradigm shift
Why we should face the sting of death.
Just recently we lost one of our colleagues from the ill fated AF 447 that crashed in the Atlantic just off Brazil last June 1, 2009. He was a nice person with a very promising career as Captain. We esteemed his leadership and low profile traits as well as his work ethics while with us. His family have a lot more of gracious words to describe what he has been, how dear he is to them, the dreams, hopes and aspirations – how he contributed in shaping their well-being! To them and to most people this is tragic, but to the rest – this is just part of life cycle. As it is written – ‘there is a time for everything’ for there is nothing new under the sun. Today, the world is mourning at the death of another musical icon, highly revered by many in the music industry. Michael Jackson will be remembered by the things he did to revolutionize pop music, and not the weird acts he did off stage.
it doesn't need to look like this.
Words will never suffice to explain the mystery of death for it comes in every living being; and when it does – it’s always a surprise. No amount of preparation can offset its sting; modern medicine can not remedy its ugly looks nor can science reverse its effect. The usual comment I hear was - ‘untimely death’ describing those who were at their prime or height of career or simply just too young to die. The irony of it all is – that we all know that it will come one way or the other and it’s always 100% casualty ratio; no age brackets nor gender gaps, no exemptions! Then why people are always caught off guard when death comes especially to a beloved one? Is this a sign of gross insecurity or a lingering fear of the unknown? Even the brave have fears; yet fear can be healthy. Kind-of a safety device with our innate defence mechanism, but I think – the fear of death is somewhat unfounded. It always leaves a bad picture that caters to human sensibilities and often magnified by people through emotional appeal. Putting feelings aside, there has to be a better way to deal with death other than grief and loss.
There is a joke that goes “don’t take life too seriously; you’ll never get out alive”. Again, this is another attempt to sugar-coat the ugliness of death. In a way – the humour is a form of denial to life’s tragedy. Let’s face it; this is a reality we will never escape so we’d rather face it squarely in order to focus our perspectives in better order. Think about this; if you will know the exact time of your demise – that will make you think many times what to do and how to do it. You will be a totally different person than what you are today. You will be more introspective and value people more than what you may now. You will try to do your best as if preparing for your awarding ceremony. Most of all – you may try to be the best that you can and live your life the fullest – knowing your time is near. So then death could be defined as ‘the touchstone of life’. Most men only acknowledge what really are important in the face of death! Such moment is life at its best! That could mean – during the height of ones’ life, he tends to ignore some or most vital things that really matter. Let me suggest one – relationships! This applies to any level in society; family, friendship, work, neighbour, religion, politics, etc. It permeates even to the lowest echelons of social structure. War and peace hang on the balance of relationships. That is why social ills and troubles are numerous because some people ignore or flatly defy the importance or relationships. Rather than tearing each other, which is very common now, we should learn to esteem each other more; endeavour to preserve real value in each person. On the other hand, relationships are also the cause of much grief in time of death due to human interaction. In some ways, grief can be an expression of selfishness apart from love. Okay, this is an imperfect world inhabited by imperfect beings, but we can try to learn to reduce its effect on peoples’ lives other than denial.
Now, how can we cope with this dilemma knowing that eventually it will come? Over the years, I have learned to accept the inevitability of death; the more I think and talk about it, the less pain and fear I felt. I still fear the unknown, but I have set my heart to learn more, accept as it is and trust more of the infinite Almighty for things I can’t change nor understand. This is powerful pretty comforting thought. Here are some few suggestions that might help.
a) Accept it for what it is. You can not change the fact; then be ready. In so doing, you may need to acknowledge that there is a Creator who knows what He is doing and in control of every affair, even the mysterious ones. Faith in God can settle your worries.
b) You may need a change of perspective. Live one day at a time to the fullest; that is – live as if it’s your last and plan as if you have another 100 years to live, and begin working your plan.
c) Take your best shot to every opportunity that comes, it may be your last. Make your days count as much as you can. Be productive!
d) Learn to love more; it will come back to you. You can actually immortalize yourself by doing this, and you probably can please your Maker. Invest on real love – not the selfish, self-serving kind but the unconditional type. It will be worth the investment.
e) Talk about death more often, don’t deny it. Try not to window-dress its ugliness.
f) Treat it as sort-of ‘graduation ceremony’ and once more, you are the centre of attention. I’m not making fun of it. Rather see the pains and toils and struggles in this life. In light of your accomplishments and failures – this should be a relief; since there is promise of rest and heaven, look forward to it as a ‘graduate’, only then it can be viewed as a form of personal celebration.
g) Be pro-active, knowing that there is always a good side even in bad circumstances. Dwell on the good and live without regrets. We all fail at one point so always give room for improvement. Forgive yourself.
h) It could be worth planning for any eventuality, even your death. There is a ‘war’ in all fronts. We are even at war with ourselves many times. Since this is a fact - care and preparedness is vital; you don’t wish to be just another casualty. Carelessness should be avoided at all times; in words, in thoughts and in deeds.
i) Maybe it helps to remember that you don’t really own anything. Your life is a trust and you are but a trustee. In every business – there is maturity and expiration of contract; profit and loss; investment and returns. Life is a form of business; there will be reckoning and you don’t own the business - be wise.
Death is still ugly but we can be dying with grace right now. Remember; that there is no oil without squeezing the olives, no wine without pressing the grapes, no real fragrance without crushing the flowers, no real joy without sorrow, and perhaps no real value of life without the shadow of death. Bottom line is – we all need to deal with it anyway, in whatever way it comes. All living beings start dying the moment after birth; this is undeniable fact we should face. In view of aforementioned realities, the basic question we should ask ourselves is – what can I do to make life worth living? Knowing that each individual is unique – it implies our significance in this world of living organisms. Each has a unique role to play that no other can, that helps balance our co-existence equilibrium. This is vital and we need to acknowledge each individual’s contribution for the good of humanity. If we do our part, it will be less painful when our time is up.