Written by Jonah Swinson
There seems to be some sort of morbid fascination with death in society. What is unknown has always been a topic of discussion, and death is no exception. Many philosophers and theologians have explanations of what happens after death, but there are still many unknown factors that force people to look on the subject with fear and awe.
Granted, there are good reasons to reflect on death, and many of the considerations could be a reasonable cause of concern. No one wants to die in a painful way or leave his or her family in a bad situation, but what appears to be the number one concern is dying with regret.
People see films like The Bucket List or Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and they begin to conjure up some laundry list of ways they would live their lives a different way if only they knew that they were going to die. I used to think it would be a relief to know exactly when I would die.Then, I could pack everything I ever wanted to do in my last couple weeks or days and end without any regrets.
It wasn’t until I had a grandfather pass away that I realized how harmful this way of thinking could be.
There was nothing that my grandfather did that taught me more about life than the way he approached his death. While he didn’t know the exact moment that he would pass, he knew his health was deteriorating.
I remember seeing him the last time before I went to college, and I could tell he was in pain. I know that at this point in my life if I had to go through what he went through, I would spend the remainder of my time complaining about the awful hand I’d been dealt.
But, I never saw him complain, and more importantly, I never heard him talk about things he would do or change if only he had more time. There was a lot of the world that he didn’t see.
I’ve noticed people’s bucket lists are often not much more than travel plans. With an endless amount of time and money, a person could see everything the world has to offer. That’s the source of the problem of regret. No one has an endless amount of time or money, so there is always going to be some portion of the world that goes unseen.
It was somewhat confusing to see a man go through a painful death with so much of the world that remained unseen, but end his life with absolutely no complaints. He didn’t talk about what he would do or where he would go if only he had more time.
Instead, he realized something that most people go their whole life without truly understanding: Life is more than a list of moments.
It is more than a collection of places visited or items checked off a bucket list.
The only way that death can be approached with dignity is if one is appreciative of the moments that he or she has been given, and the opportunities that are provided are seized.
My grandfather did not fear death because he honored the life that he had.
Lastly, I am reminded of the words of Chief Tecumseh who stated, “When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.”