Nobody is immune. You can be the richest man or the most popular, well-loved person in the world. The reality, you will die. When? You never know. I wrote this just after reading the headlines in the New York Times that basketball legend Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash.
Having retired after 20 years of basketball, suddenly his time was up. I am not a basketball fan, but I was moved. Not by the loss of such an iconic player, rather by the reality that it doesn’t matter who you are.
Then a colleague from a university who was within two weeks of retiring died recently. While he was not iconic in the sense of Kobe Bryant, he did have an impact on the world around him. (See “The Burden of Gift Giving). It does not matter who we are, we make a mark in the world around us.
Over the next few days you will see a lot of eulogizing and remembrances of someone who played basketball very well. While it is sad for the family (his daughter passing along with him) his friends, the people he entertained while playing the game and all those he made money for, that’s not what this post is about.
Why sugarcoat the reality that death is inevitable. You may be thinking, “Of course I know I am going to die.” My reply, “Stop, take a breath and say this to yourself slowly letting it sink in. “I AM GOING TO DIE SOMEDAY.” Some may not want to say it. Others may say it quickly, pushing past the feelings that come with this reality. How does it make you feel? Scared? Worried? Not me! I am motivated by the reality that death is part of the deal. It may be because I have lost family members, brother (suddenly), Father (not as sudden), sister in-law and all my grandparents. While it makes me sad and I miss them all very much, my life is changed forever. You never get over loss, rather it becomes a part of you. And here is the great part of that, death motivates you to live, if you so choose.
There is a choice to live a full rich life of what you are meant to do. Death is a gift that motivates one to take risks, to care less, to love more, to be of service and live simply.
Death has motivated me to put my house in order by untangling the issues of life. Untangling the personal issues has allowed me not to take myself so seriously, to know that we are all on a level playing field and to appreciate all that life has to offer. Untangling issues with others is letting go of resentments and surrounding myself with like-minded supportive friends and family. And death has taught me to be of service to others based on my experience, strength and hope.
I wake up every morning with gratitude for another day above ground. When I start the day with gratitude things go much easier.
Seeing my son off at school, saying goodbye from a place of loving kindness is what it is all about. I try as best as I can to be that way with everyone in my life. I am not perfect, but when I read headlines like the sudden loss of someone, I am always brought back to this place.
Death is like that, reminding us to live, love and let go.