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January 29, 2016

4 Things I’ve Learned about Death that Have Helped Me to Truly Live.

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The neighborhood I live in has been tranquil for the past couple of days.

The only sounds I’ve heard have been fireworks at sunset and the distant mourning of men and women.

A girl just passed away at the age of 26.

Historically, I would’ve crumbled at the news of someone’s death. Although I’ve experienced the deaths of acquaintances before, only two deaths led me to the point of personal collapse—the death of my grandmother and the death of a guy I dated.

Those two particular deaths opened my eyes to life. I realized that death is something inevitable that will knock on everybody’s door. Opting to be oblivious to death is not a reality which we can afford to neglect.

As years passed by and I became more familiar with death, death was no longer my enemy—it became my ally.

Fearing death and avoiding it only made my life more complicated and uncanny. But as I contemplated it—and still do—I have discovered that death can serve as a portal to consciousness.

It might seem awkward, but I believe that death can teach us how to live.

Sadly, we refuse to believe this and thus, we’ve allowed the notion of death to sweep us away in fear. I know many people who refuse to talk about topics related to funerals or the physical death of someone. We hold a strong aversion toward it as it represents complete annihilation of our selves. Not only is it the death of our bodies, but also the death of our ego, our identities and our thoughts.

Although it is an arduous practice, we can allow death to help us live more mindfully:

To do so, however, we first need to practice not fearing death. Let’s consider death as an enemy that we are willing to know better.

In my own experience, when I became friends with death, it helped me attain valuable realizations which in return helped me to live a more or less conscious and mindful life.

To begin with, the death of other people taught me a greater appreciation of impermanence. 

I interpret the notion of impermanence as a means to an end. When we truly, deeply realize that all is transient and nothing ever stays the same, we will deal with things in a different manner.

We will no longer wake up in bad moods because we are conscious that this day might be the very last day we’re breathing in. We will fight less with our neighbor, instead we will laugh knowing we will miss the noise he makes when he dies too. And surprisingly, we will not fight with our partner for not calling because come on, thank f*ck he’s still breathing and thank f*ck we have someone to love and to love us back. We will come to appreciate people more.

Death has taught me a deeper appreciation and acceptance of the present moment.

No matter how pleasant or dreadful this present moment is, it is all we have that is guaranteed.

We really don’t see that we are the ones who stagnate our joyful days. We take them for granted and treat our life as if it’s lasting for 200 years more. News flash: It’s not. If we truly realize how flimsy our bodies are, we wouldn’t spend one more day depressed, feeling sorry, or enraged.

As we wake up every single morning, we should be thankful that we are breathing. Life is a blessing with all its good and bad cycles. Everything alive is a miracle and so we shouldn’t underestimate it.

Additionally, the remarkable thing that the death of other people has taught me is the appreciation of everybody I know.

When my grandmother died, I kept searching for a picture of me and her to put in my room. To my surprise, I didn’t have one single photo of us together. I kept giving myself a hard time so long because I took her presence for granted. While I always took pictures with my little cousins who were so cute, I never thought of taking a picture with her.

I never told her how much I loved her or how much I felt comfortable holding her wrinkled hand. She died not knowing what she means to me.

By this point, I try to love, to give, to be vulnerable and to never refrain from telling anyone I care about, how much I care about them. I enjoy my moment with my family and my friends because they are here today, but they might not be here tomorrow.

If I were to summarize what death can help us with, I would say that death teaches us to love unconditionally, to be happy and accept our present moment the way it is, to never take anything for granted, and to befriend impermanence because without it there would be no evolution, no change and no consciousness.

Another reason to embrace death is to think about what life would be without it.

Imagine we are human beings who don’t die. Imagine we’re living forever. Imagine there is no impermanence.

If there was no death, there would be no birth, which means that there would be no life. Growing forever is boring. If we are not going to die, we would spend our endless, non-ending lives pursuing goals and wondering what to do next.

Therefore, it is death that makes life significant. We grow passionate and eager to leave a mark on the world because we realize that the clock is ticking.

Let’s not wait for death to rest in peace. Let’s have death teach us how to live in peace.

~

Author: Elyane Youssef

Editor: Caitlin Oriel

Image: Samuel Zeller/Unsplash

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