Monday, October 10, 2011


Several recent events have caused me to think about death.

Not my own specifically, but death in general. Let's face it -- death is part of life's circle, whether it involves losing a loved one, a pet companion or merely experiencing the change of seasons. Although fall and winter are my two favorite seasons, some people find falling leaves and fewer hours of sunshine depressing, even incapacitating. But change will continue occur, whether or not we want it.

Loss has surrounded me during most of my life. A childhood playmate was a polio victim during the 1950s. Two high school friends were killed in a car accident during the summer before my senior year. Then the Vietnam War scooped up a huge number of boys from my hometown. All of these events occurred before I reached the age of 21. Scattered throughout this period were the deaths of my grandparents, paternal and maternal relatives and neighbors. Death was neither easy nor very far away.

Possibly those of us who experience loss early in life have a different perspective. We appreciate that we are all on shaky ground and life brings no guarantees. The biggest shock to my adolescent being was acknowledging the death of people who were my own age. This fact was unsettling to say the least, especially because young people always feel (and hope) they are "immortal." The older we get, the more loss we inevitably suffer.

Perhaps the key to experiencing a rich life is not to waste time dwelling on events of the past. A great percentage of people not only focus on trivial, perceived slights, but repeat the tale to anyone who will listen. This may be a result of watching too much reality television. We somehow feel entitled to complain and criticize, an attitude which spills over into our actual lives. But regardless of the reason, this negative outlook is filled with bitterness and selfishness and, unfortunately, can become contagious.

Instead, we should try to enjoy every day to its fullest, as though each might be our last day. I would imagine people who are killed in some horrible accident -- like a plane crash -- don't spend their final moments recalling the many projects they left unfinished or phone calls they neglected to return. Their thoughts are likely about loved ones or fond memories. I might be wrong on that point. But just think about that for a moment.

We should strive to enjoy each day. Perform random acts of kindness and be appreciative of others. We could all benefit from re-learning how to relax and laugh. Try to live in the moment. Who knows how many more moments we have?

Simple though this approach might be, it is a good guide for daily life.

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