Embracing Mortality: How Death Teaches Us to Truly Live

There’s a particular clarity that sweeps over us when we face mortality, not just in theory, but in raw, unfiltered reality. I still recall, with a clarity that sometimes surprises me, the day I watched my stepdad, Gary, breathe his last in the sterile surroundings of a hospital room.

Just the day before, the medical staff had hinted at the inevitable. Knowing that his time was limited, my family and I gathered around him, filling the room with a mix of tears, laughter, and the soulful notes of “Amazing Grace.” At 8:15 the next morning, time stood still for a moment, and then Gary was gone.

Now, while the sudden loss of Gary at a mere 57 years to lymphoma was heart-wrenching, it was a powerful reminder: mortality isn’t reserved for the old or the sick. We are all on a ticking clock. Every second, three souls depart this world. That’s a quarter of a million daily goodbyes!

It’s a stark and, let’s admit, a somewhat dark thought. But here’s the twist: recognizing the impermanence of life can imbue our days with purpose and urgency.

Consider this: if you’re 22 now and live till 88, a quarter of your life is already behind you. If your journey ends at 72, then almost a third of your life has passed. It’s staggering to think that by your early twenties, you’ve already experienced such a significant chunk of your lifetime.

But why dwell on such thoughts? Because they give us perspective. Picture your own funeral, as challenging as that might be. Who’s there? What are they saying about you? Are they celebrating your life even in their grief?

I remember attending two funerals, one for my biological dad and another for Marlene, a beloved school teacher. The contrast couldn’t be more significant. My dad’s funeral was quiet, attended by only ten of us, most without a real connection to him. Marlene’s, on the other hand, was an overflowing room of mourners singing “Joyful, Joyful, we adore Thee.” Despite the tragic nature of her death, it was clear: her life was a radiant beacon that had touched many.

This stark difference made me pause. I wanted, and still want, a life-like Marlene’s—a life that touches others, a life worth celebrating. Each day offers a new opportunity to make that a reality, to leave an imprint on others’ hearts.

We can’t control when our journey will end, but we hold the pen that writes our story. It’s our choices, our actions, and our connections that will define how we’re remembered. Life is fleeting, but in that brevity lies the chance to make every moment count.

So here’s my question to you: Are you living a life that you’d want celebrated?