The Goddess Speaks
The dying can teach us about living
WE ARRIVE on Earth with a lifetime of gifts and a lifetime to use them. But as we get older we forget that each year is a gift. Only when we lose people close to us do we begin to realize that life can be taken at any moment.
The past few years have been difficult for my family with cancer, death, Alzheimer's disease and diabetes striking the people in our lives. The grief and sorrow I experienced taught me a great deal about appreciating the moment.
Somehow we believe our loved ones' last year of life should be greater, more valuable and more profound than all their years prior. It's as if we are trying to squeeze out every second left. Yet death is always nearby. In a whisper, seen in a heart attack or a close call in a car accident, death reminds us to stop, remember and appreciate life.
IN OUR SOCIETY we tend to avoid thinking about death. It's uncomfortable, scary and depressing, and we believe that in some way thinking about it could draw it near. But what if we were to think that we are dying every day that we live? If we learn from the sick and the dying, maybe we can enrich our lives.
My grandmother with Alzheimer's disease cannot remember the past and is unable to think about the future. All she has is the present, so every experience is precious. She does not worry about what is to come, nor does she have regrets about the past. She teaches me that in any given moment, whether experiencing happiness or sadness, you have the fullest capacity to live.
In the perspective of my family's loss, I gained greater insight into what it means to be alive. The scariest thing for me is thinking that we might be waiting for the right time to share our gifts as if they were brightly wrapped presents on Christmas morning. We might be waiting for a time that never comes.
Just as the holidays pass quickly, so do the seasons of our lives. I don't want my relatives' lives to be a waste. I glorify their lives by making the most of mine. Their deaths have given me the greatest gift of all, the gift of life, one moment and one day at a time.
Brandi-Ann Tanaka is a graduate student in counseling psychology at Santa Clara University.
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