We are a very death phobic society. We don't like to grieve publicly either. If you have spent time in many other cultures you know we mourn and grieve in very different ways. Given the fact that we will all die, as will our parents, our children, our friends we are not prepared to deal with these eventualities. We have not mastered grieving, loss, and death in fact we really avoid thinking about it. Through the miracles of modern medicine we have learned to put-off death much of the time. We lack the shared experience as is the case in so many cultures where death is such an everyday occurrence. For us we often only accept death when it takes place in hospitals, when all else has failed, or nothing more can be done. It is skirted in conversations with socially appropriate euphemisms and talked about in hushed tones, or others simply avoid acknowledging it. And for those who find death upon them, we often don't do enough or the right things to help them through the very emotional and physical experience of grieving and loss.
When I was touring a hospital in Africa I went to visit the morgue. To some of you this sound grotesque. As any person living in this part of AIDS stricken Africa knows, death is a very real, everyday occurrence, and some if not, many of your friends and family members have died in your lifetime. In many cases not painless deaths, not very timely old age deaths. You have seen death in it all its unpleasantness. I was slightly hesitant to go in but I thought to really understand the"experience of so many people it was something I needed to see. It is a strong image to see a place overrun with death. One I hope NOT to forget, I know that may sound very strange but I think too often we get into our nice comfortable lives, we fail to see the things that are really out there. If we did it could change the way we think and it would change the way we live.
In a church meeting once about helping people change their patterns of behavior I said, "I think the problem is people don't see enough death". I that was probably the last thing anyone expected to hear come out of my mouth on a Sunday morning. Seeing death reminds you of your own mortality, it reminds you of the mortality of those around you. It reminds you that the time here and now is finite both for yourself and those you love. We cannot cheat death, we cannot outrun it. One day it will come and often at the most unexpected time, on the most normal of days. It will come in all its silence, its stillness, its coldness and it will end a chapter. However depressing it sounds "what if I died today, or my parent, or my child, or my friend" actually makes you live better. It makes you softer, and more deliberate. And the most painful sting in death is regret. Regret for opportunities missed.
If we lived this way we'd give more compliments, be more sincere, be less afraid to share our emotions, we'd give more of ourselves, we'd do more small simple things, we'd be more personal we'd make others laugh and smile more. Neal A Maxwell talked about living so we "touch others deeply, instead of being remembered pleasantly". This is a theme I explore in alot of my art. So today's wise words- Live like there is no tomorrow.