The news of a celebrity’s passing is flashed on television like an endless financial ticker tape. For a period of time, we revisit that person’s life in tributes and farewells. I have a hunch that each of these deaths generates a punctuation mark that’s placed on our own mortality. Further, they cause us to ponder life’s ultimate question – what will be the legacy of my own life?

 

Mortality isn’t the way to open up a charming dinner conversation. It’s not something you put on your wish list of “things you’d like to discuss with your friends.” And yet, it lurks around us, like the wind, sometimes letting its presence known, sometimes staying quiet. As a liberal arts student in college, I recall a special course being offered about Death and Dying and I shuddered at the idea of taking such a class. Today, I would be the first to enroll. It seems the more comfortable we are with death, the more comfortably we live.

 

A Buddhist practitioner would approach life like it’s his last day. In fact, each moment is potentially our last breath, and so the Buddhist will spend a great deal of his meditation and time anticipating and preparing for death. The quality of one’s death affects the quality of the rebirth process. Christians believe that in the afterlife Jesus will greet his followers and welcome them to heaven. Other faiths and belief systems abound regarding death and reincarnation. The common ingredient in most faiths is that the actions you take or the choices you make today determine the quality of your afterlife.

 

What about the quality of our current life? Maybe when we face our darkest fears (most notably that of passing into the unknown) we are liberated and become free – to live. From that vantage point, we can craft and create with love and zeal, rather than from fear and trembling. And so how we experience our days on Earth becomes a choice of love or fear.

 

Getting older, it may take us a bit longer to heal from those little nagging injuries.  We might need to retire each night a few minutes earlier. Our body fat may accumulate easier as the metabolism slows. Perhaps the tell tale evidence of aging is when we choose a wonderful dinner conversation over a sexual tryst. We can look another directly in the eye because we know ourselves better. The clock is ticking but somehow each day I feel more free and alive. I embrace my mortality fully, and look not up or down, but inside, as I monitor the expressions of my own life. Yes, I have been living, not dying. I smile.