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Life Lessons from Death

Life Lessons from Death

by Nancy Loyd

Some may say I have a strange passion, for I am passionate about what our mortality can teach us about living.  I am fortunate to not only be a spiritual director with Loyola but also to work in hospice care. I believe that it is a blessed gift to work each day with those who are dying and with their loved ones. Having death as a constant companion helps me to truly stay focused on the gift of life each day. What the dying teach us is that in the end nothing matters but relationships, the relationships we have with our self, God, and others. Of course it shouldn’t take until we are on our deathbed to come to such an awareness but sometimes we become lulled into thinking that we will always have tomorrow or next week or next year to mend broken relationships.  Ira Byock, a palliative and hospice care doctor wrote a beautiful book titled, The Four Things That Matter Most: A Book About Living. These four things are not things at all, but words that have the power to transform lives and relationships. They are: “Please forgive me. I forgive you. Thank you. I love you.” Byock writes; “Comprising just eleven words, these four short sentences carry the core wisdom of what people who are dying have taught me about what matters most in life.”

Working so closely with death teaches me that no one is guaranteed tomorrow. And instead of finding that morbid, I find it a blessing. Living in that space allows me to choose not to leave things unsaid to those who matter most to me. I try to hold my relationships up as the primary reason I make the decisions I do about how I journey through this one precious life on earth. However, I believe and trust that when this life ends, Life begins. I find great comfort in trusting that ultimately I will be returning to the One who created me in love. I can trust that fully because of what I get to see and hear on a regular basis. Stories of profound peace, love, and joy that are experienced in the final hours of people’s lives and how they are beautifully lifted from this world to the next.

So yes, I am passionate about the many lessons death can teach us about living. Including the invitation to daily attend to our lives and relationships with forgiveness, love, and gratitude. Whether we want to admit it or not, tomorrow is not guaranteed. Death is the gift that invites us with each breath to recognize the preciousness of our own life and of those we love.

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