Back it up: Let your death inform your life
Tuesday, December 03, 2019
Death is the only wise adviser that we have.
— Carlos Castaneda
We’ve all heard about “bucket lists.” You’ve probably got your own. It may include ideas about what we want to see and do and where we want to go before we die. Some folks have thousands of items on their list and manage to get a bunch of them done; others not so much. Many simply dream.
These lists are great — I have a few of my own. At the top is returning to a particular hotel on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Let’s dive a bit deeper, though, and stretch even further. Go straight to your death now. How you wish to be remembered may change how you live your life.
Here are five strategies to get you started:
Write your own obituary
Considering your own death can be daunting. Several of my friends are convinced they will live to be at least 120 years old. I know some brilliant young minds who are opting for cryonics, wanting to be frozen and revived in the future when better technology and medicine exist.
At some point, we will die. By writing your own obituary while you are still alive, you retake ownership of your biography. Imagine reading about yourself in the newspaper after you’re gone. Narrating how you wish to be remembered reminds you how to live.
Write your own eulogy
Why not sing your own praises, recount fond memories and celebrate your life while you’re still here? And share it with your family and friends? While a eulogy is often the speech given at a funeral, you don’t have to wait till then to do your own.
This past birthday, I had no intention of writing anything; my plan was to soak in some contemplative time before all the festivities. Yet, something like a eulogy bubbled up as I meandered in the woods that morning.
Dictating on my phone, it began with what doesn’t “define” me. Later, sharing it with each of the people mentioned within, that process became the best birthday gift — to us all.
Write your own epitaph
What do you want inscribed on your gravestone? My mom has said for years that her epitaph would be, “Peace at Last.” To sum up in so few words what you want to leave behind is quite a feat. Take time to ponder and consolidate your legacy.
Complete a life review
I first learned of a life review in my hospice work. By looking over your life and reflecting on the good and bad, you can shapeshift and heal the past, forgive and let go.
Though it may take some time and support, this kind of reckoning has the power to change not only yours, but your loved ones’ lives as well.
Discover your life song
It takes clarity, courage and commitment to live your life through the lens of death. Pay attention. Start with your thinking. Take small, doable steps. Reap the rewards.
Back it up and leave this life as you intended.
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