How Death Informs Life | 035

CHAPTER 35, IN WHICH WE CONSIDER HOW REFLECTIONS ON DEATH CAN HELP US LIVE BETTER

This week Vince and Lightning tackle the light topic of death.
Lightning began by sharing that a friend of his recently passed away. He was in his late 40s and lived in community. He had a great support network and he was well-loved when he died. This is a striking contrast to a story Lightning heard from an old parish priest. The priest tells a story in which he is at the hospital with a family who is about to lose a parent. The dying parent doesn’t want to talk about death with the family; the family doesn’t want to talk about the death with the parent; the doctor doesn’t want anyone to get worked up. As a result, the priest gets bounced around this triangle without anyone being willing to engage in a difficult but important conversation.

The idea of our own death makes each of us reflective. Often, as a person nears death they become reflective. This is unsettling to others who often shut down the conversation by saying something like “Oh Grandpa, don’t talk that way…you’ve still got a lot of good years in you.”

And yet death is a natural experience, and we can learn a lot from the reflection that often accompanies its approach. Individuals who have a near death experience often change significant areas of their life once they recover. This seems valuable. Sometimes it takes the gravity of death (our own or that of someone close to us) to knock us off the American conveyor belt into a reflective place, even if just for a few moments.

Lightning knew a man who died well about 3 years ago. He recounted the story of Mark Hallen, who was a theatre professor at Eastern University in suburban Philadelphia. Lightning told the story of Mark’s illness and death. Mark wrote an open letter to his community a few months before he died, which Lightning read to us. You can read that letter here. The amazing part of this story is how Mark embraced his own death, and by doing so, allowed everyone around him to grieve and process and have meaningful experiences in the last few months of his life.

The idea of a generous death is to do death well and in community. If we believe that humans are meant to live in community, we must also believe that we are meant to die in community. How can we be as embracing of death as we are of birth? If I knew that my death was 3 months away, what would I change in my life? Why am I not living that way now?

Lighting closed the conversation with a quote from a friend of his: Old age is a luxury that is not afforded to all.

 

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The church that Vince co-leads: Brown Line Vineyard

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lightning@unquiet.life