Okay, I lied. There are no rainbows and puppy dogs. I was trying to lure you in here, glad to see it worked. Because what kind of weirdo wants to talk about death? This weirdo, right here. Really, this is a feel-good post, nothing freaky. Cross my heart….
First, my background. I am not dead (despite appearances) nor have I ever died. But once upon a time, I was a Hospice volunteer. And it remains the most rewarding work I’ve ever done. I say that as a short timer. The truth is I couldn’t hack it for very long. Hospice volunteers = Angels Amongst Us.
A GOOD DEATH
Hospice, if you are uninitiated, teaches the concept of a good death. Simply put, it means dying with peace, acceptance and zero regrets. And how do we get there? The reality is most of us are floating along on the good ship denial, not wanting to think about death (icky). Death is something that will happen many, many decades (centuries even!) from now, when we are all old, tired and ready. Well, maaaaaaybe. But, if it isn’t, then this is what the dying taught me….
Nothing that we think matters, matters.
The things we fret over now, with so much drama and angst, will mean absolutely nothing in the end. (AKA Job titles, size of our paychecks, traffic jams, the number on the scale, the cars we drive, blah, etc.) Who cares. You won’t and I won’t.
Good Health Bit of a no-brainer when discussing Hospice, eh? But it’s true…if you don’t have your health, you have nothing. Want to know why the elderly have a reputation for being grouchy? Because they hurt. They are in pain. Their bodies are slowing down and breaking down. The very thought makes me grouchy as Hell. So be patient with them. And, this part is important, take reasonably good care of yourself NOW. Take the stairs, pop vitamins, drink fresh water, learn to unwind. Your health is the gift you can lose in a snap.
Solid Relationships. Healthy, positive, uplifting relationships. With good friends, with family, with neighbors, with lovers. We are social creatures. Loneliness kills. We aren’t made to go it alone. So don’t. Put your energy into building positive relationships AND keeping them. You won’t regret it.
Rewarding Work. Tricky, tricky, tricky. Find your gifts and use them generously and with passion. Not many do. It’s maddeningly elusive. Good luck with this one. I’m still figuring it out myself. If you figure it out, kindly enlighten me.
Learn how to do this, long, loud and, most of all, often. Life is confusing and painful. Sometimes all you will have left is laughter. Cultivate this skill into a science. Laugh at yourself, laugh at the absurdity of it all. Just laugh because you can. Or take up juggling. Maybe that will help.
Serve Others, Give Back. I could quote a million wise guru’s who will all tell you the exact same thing. The happiest, most content people on this planet are those who have learned how to help others.
“Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Case Example - Well, me. My work at Hospice, as I said, was the most important work I’ve done. I’ll never forgot those who led the way before me, who faced the inevitable with grace and peace in their hearts. They are with me forever, constantly inspiring, guiding and reminding me of what really matters….
A good death will follow a good life.