Art of Dying Art of Dying_Volume III_joomag | Page 54
I'm not anyone special.
I'm just a person who's
going to die, and I want
to do it right.
A Buddhist monk said to me, "Always use death as your
advisor." That was a radical acceptance of the fact that
I'm going to die, and to use death to give life priority
and meaning. This plays out in practical ways. If I spill
my granola, I can get upset or I can say, "You know, I'm
going to die." I say that little mantra to myself 20 times a
day, at least. That has changed my life in big ways.
I’m not anyone special. I’m just a person who’s going to
die, and I want to do it right.
My entire life I was terrified of dying because misguided
religion in childhood taught me that I could end up in
hell and because I witnessed so many painful, anxious,
angry deaths. I was waking up in the middle of the night
with panic attacks. I thought to myself, “Look, you have
to make peace with death or death will haunt you for the
rest of your life.”
My interest in death isn't a morbid pursuit. It's a way of
clarifying my life. It's a way of not being distracted. You
can go kicking and screaming if you want, but if you've
done your homework, and you've practiced giving
death attention, you can relax into dying by using death
as your advisor. That's my goal.
Since I was a child, my big dream has been to write
books. I want to die knowing I've given my big dream
my biggest effort. That and parenting well. I've said no
to more lucrative jobs and finery. I've used death as my
advisor to stay on track with what matters most to me—
on a big scale, which is my life, and a small scale, which
54 | ART OF DYING
is not getting upset with the spilled granola.
Death has always been at the top of the list of my greatest
fears. It was an unhealthy fear. Then I decided, "Okay,
I'm going to go around and interview wise people, and
I'm going to go to conferences. I'm going to find out
what people who have found some peace with death
have to say." At first, I was writing Making Friends With
Death for me. Meanwhile, friends were being diagnosed
with cancer or dying traumatically. Their families were
torn apart because of unplanned medical decisions and
other unanswered questions. I then realized that Making
Friends With Death was a book for others.
I'd love for people to buy two copies. One for themselves
to work on while they're helping their mother or brother
die. I think they go hand-in-hand.
Most people have a fear of death and they either let it cast
a power over their life, or they just live in complete denial.
Both of those choices don't add to a full, vibrant, beautiful
life. We can have a fear of death, but I prefer to think
of it as a wholesome fear. It's a good fear when we can
acknowledge it, honor it, and lead our lives with vibrancy.
My generation wants to talk about death because we've
seen the painful results of our parents not talking about
it. My generation truly believes that it is incumbent upon
us to give a gift to both ourselves and to others by talking
about death, preparing for it, coming to terms with it.
In the natural order of things parents die first, but we