To Live More Fully, Contemplate Death

Spring is the season of new birth, followed closely by the child-rearing months of summer. Over the last several months, I’ve been watching as miniature animals pop up everywhere. The number of quail, geese, ground squirrels, night hawks, and king snakes seem to multiply as mothers give birth to the next generation.

Yet, the increased number of animals living in the densely-populated city means that a higher number of creatures fall prey to human factors. Daredevil quail dart across busy intersections, leading their youth to an untimely death. Baby ground squirrels wander off to explore their environment and unwittingly meet a neighboring house-cat. A playful dog captures a lizard as a gift for its master, and a harmless snake slithers too close to a protective father.

I recently learned that I’ve been harboring an infectious disease in my body for nearly four years, undetected. At it’s current stage, the infection has a 28% chance of killing me. I’m not worried about dying right now because I’m working with the best doctors and they are monitoring me like crazy.

What I am thinking about is the inverse–the 72% survival rate. Assuming that I’ll make it through this and emerge a stronger and wiser version of myself, I’ve been asking myself questions about life satisfaction. What might I do differently if I knew I was going to die tomorrow or next year? When it’s time for me to say goodbye, what will I regret if I don’t make changes now?

My cousin was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer on the cusp of 30 and passed away within a year. Somehow, he remained a positive force throughout his suffering and I often wonder how he came to find that inner peace. He was the kind of person who chased every whim and truly followed his heart, so I think his calm came from living exactly as he wanted every single day–no regrets.

When I reflect on my own life, there are things I would do differently if I knew my own demise was imminent. Maybe I would muster up the courage to quit my job or mend a broken relationship. Perhaps I would travel or finally pursue my dream to start a business. I would take the time to say thank you to every person who has ever impacted me. I think that any of these actions would bring me closer to my authentic self and allow me to experience life more fully and with more depth.

Contemplating our mortality can be a powerful catalyst for change. People often avoid talking about death, as it exposes one of our deepest fears. However, it’s a well-established fact that each of us will eventually die, whether tomorrow or 100 years from now. Considering the inevitability of death gives us the opportunity to explore the end-of-life questions right now, and to adjust our course accordingly.

If you knew you were going to die a year from today, what would you do differently? Perhaps, think about implementing that change today and beginning your own journey towards a more fulfilling life.

2 thoughts on “To Live More Fully, Contemplate Death

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  1. I think this is why I write so much about death in my stories that I create. I find it to be a contemplation of death — its impact on others, the psyche of someone close to death (be it expected or unexpected), the way society views it — if only from a creative standpoint. I’m not certain whether or not it makes me appreciate my own life more fully. That said, I do think it has allowed me to be more empathetic to those dealing with death in some way.

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    1. I think death is a topic that a lot of people are very uncomfortable with, yet it’s a fate that we must all eventually face. I think it’s healthy to creatively contemplate the darker topics, as it helps us to develop empathy and courage without spiraling down too deep. Well-written contemplation of death tend (at least for me) to be the most impactful, likely because the fear, questions, and uncertainty are feeling that we can all relate to.

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