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I experienced my first funeral when my great grandmother, Grandma Alice, passed in 1975. I can’t recall much about the funeral or the moments leading up to it. But I do remember the questions that kept running through my head during that time: Why did she have to die? Where is she going? What and where is heaven?
Old age and death are a part of life and there’s nothing we can do about it. With the passing of my father in 2009 and the untimely deaths of friends, my views on death, and more importantly life, have changed.
- Funeral Planning: While planning the funeral for my father, I found it to be mentally, financially and physically exhausting. It was an untimely death and this was my first time taking care of funeral arrangements. I recall thinking, “Man, why didn’t you have your stuff in order?” My biggest takeaway is to start planning now so your loved ones won’t have to sort through those complicated issues while they are mourning.
- Material Possessions: I had a conversation with my mother concerning her fine china. She asked if I wanted it after she passed. I said, “No thanks” and she looked at me like I had two heads. “Why not?” she asked incredulously. I replied, “First, it’s not pretty. And second, you need to use your china while you are living.” I feel so many of us have allowed material things to define our lives and even our deaths. If you are able to acquire it while you are living, you need to use it while you are living.
- Cremate or Bury: I did not realize caskets were so expensive! Why does one need a pretty box to go into the ground? I have read many articles detailing the pros and cons for both. I honestly believe it is a personal preference but I am leaning towards cremation. It is less expensive, less planning for family members and I can decide what to do with my ashes. I’ve already decided that I want them spread over a beautiful body of water.
- Disappointment after a death occurs: Over the last year, we have lost many celebrities. We don’t know these celebrities personally but we feel some sort of personal connection to them through their work, often because it represents a time in our lives when we were experiencing some life-changing event and it was their music or art that got us over the hump. We feel with their loss they will not be able to get us through our next life-changing event. I recently recognized that this reaction is the same when we lose close family members and friends, I realized that this response is actually a bit selfish. We instantly think about how we will survive without them, centering the loss around us as opposed to thinking about the legacy of the person who passed and why we should celebrate and rejoice his or her life. Yes, that person is gone but what he or she gave us will live on forever.
- Live everyday to the fullest: Every time someone dies we say, post, or tweet something along the lines of, “Live each day the fullest, you never know when it’s going to be your last.” It’s as if the death sets off a reminder about enjoying life and not taking it for granted. In order to live each day to the fullest, one must:
- Have a spiritual foundation
- Live from the inside out
- Spend time with people who want to spend time with you
- Not place importance on material things
- Be true to who you really are
- Live in the present
- Create your own happiness
- Discover and live your purpose
- Let go of negativity
- Stop allowing the past to define your present and future
- Challenge yourself
- Love yourself
- Love life
Today I am not so concerned about death but living my very best life because everyday matters!