To fully live you have to be prepared to die
To fully live you have to be prepared to die, argues Norwich vicar and author Rev Nicholas Vesey. Death is an integral part of life.
Death and Taxes, the only two things in life that are certain. One you can avoid, the other you can’t. We are all getting older every minute. And nowadays we are being asked to think more about our pensions, the care that we will have in our old age, and even where we would prefer to die.
But we still do not think too much about our own deaths. Most of us prefer not to dwell too deeply on the subject. Apart from not wanting a horrible death, we tend to shove it to the back of the mind.
To begin with we think we will live forever. We have our parents and grandparents to go before us. Then it is just our parents. And when they go, we really begin to feel that we are next. Our mortality becomes very apparent. We realise that more people are dying around us. We become sensitive to that ache or pain, that mole which seems to be itching – could it be C….?
And so the reality of death begins to dawn. It is no longer ‘way over yonder’, but merely ‘a way off’. But, however old we get, we rarely make our peace with it. We still do not want to talk about it, think of our funeral, or plan the details. And if we ever do mention it to others, they quickly move us on – “don’t be morbid… you’ve got years yet”.
Yet, like birth, death is an integral part of life. You cannot live without dying. It is one of the two bookends of life. And to fully live you have to be prepared to die.
To be prepared for death. When we say that, we generally think of “getting our affairs in order “– wills, funeral, and the mental attitude to actually dying. But I think there is a more vital stage than that. During our lives we should carry our deaths around with us. To be perfectly alive and in the moment, we have to live with the fact that we are going to die.
It is a cliché that we should live every moment as if it were our last, but I am suggesting that we should live every moment in the knowledge that we are going to die. Not to do so is like playing a football match and thinking that there is no end to the game, whereas in actuality you’ve only got 90 minutes. That time constraint creates a focus for action.
In life we think we’ve got ‘forever’ (when we are young), or ‘quite a time’ (when we are middle aged), or ‘not quite yet’ (when we are old). But death is a ‘now’ thing. We are to embrace the possibility of death. To know what it feels like, to reach for it.
We should get to know our death; know how we feel about it; consider its possibility daily; so that when it comes we can say “Welcome friend, you are a part of my life and I have prepared myself for your coming”.
For to welcome death daily, is to live in a right relationship with life. It enables us to treasure what we have, and not to take it for granted. To make correct decisions based upon the idea that what we are deciding is within a finite structure, not an infinity of possibilities.
It also makes us consider the darkness in death, which makes the darkness in life less dark. To live with death is not to forsake life; it is to embrace life fully. We cannot fully live unless we are prepared to fully die.
As Shakespeare put it: “Be absolute for death; either death or life shall thereby be the sweeter.”
The Rev Nicholas Vesey is the author of “Developing Consciousness: A Roadmap of the Journey to Enlightenment”, which is published by O Books this week, is now available to buy online at Amazon or at the Norwich Christian Resource Centre or Waterstones in Norwich.