I have been an advocate for talking about our mortality and befriending our death long before COVID-19 was an intimate part of our lives. COVID has forced many to contemplate their own mortality as well as to bear the unbearable of having to say goodbye to a loved one via a screen as they lie dying in an ICU bed locked away from family and friends.
For some, this close encounter with their own or another’s mortality has caused what has been termed existential shock. Never before has death been so close to so many. We can choose to respond to this in many ways, to turn away in denial, live in fear or dread, or lean into what our mortality can teach us about how to live well with whatever time we have left on this side of the veil.
If COVID has taught us anything, it is the importance of having our lives and our affairs in order because life, as we have seen all too dramatically, is fragile and unpredictable. Now more than ever is the time to engage in discussions about what matters most to us at this point in our lives and as we age and move ever closer to the great unknowable of death. As Ira Byock, a palliative care doctor and author states about these types of discussions, “It’s always too soon until it’s too late.”
If you are feeling nudged to think more and plan better for what may lay ahead, I invite you to join me in a four-part discussion on Wednesday mornings in May via Zoom as we explore: aging, what choices (medical and otherwise) we might want to make now and in the future, befriending our mortality, and how our faith informs our thoughts and decisions about death and dying. We will use Atul Gwande’s book, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End as the springboard for these discussions.
Contemplating our death, as paradoxical as it may seem, doesn’t have to produce anxiety or fear – it can, in fact, allow us to live life more fully. When we embrace our mortality, we are invited to live each day with more love, gratitude, and humility and with the hope that when the inevitable does come upon us, we will have as few regrets as possible. Now that’s an amazing gift we can give ourselves and those we love!