The Secret to Dealing with Death... and Life

There are certainly horrible ways to die, but I find nothing intrinsicly horrible about death itself. It is, as many will say, just a part of life. But it is more than that. It is what gives significance to life; the knowledge that we are to die, I think, motivates us to live.

My father worked for 30 years as a paramedic and Emergency Medical Technician, and has for the past decade or so been a funeral director. Death is dinner conversation at my house. It is what I grew up knowing. It's there; I know it's coming, but it scares me not.

This almost daily exposure to death has really sensitized me to those who deal with a death close to them. With my father in the positions he was (and is), I was (and am) exposed to much of the human aspects of loss and suffering. And I think for most a death close to them (or even one not-so-close, as in the case of Diana or Mother Teresa) forces them to examine themselves, to hopefully renew a love of their life in the wake of a loss of another's. I really don't think that a greater respect for life can be, than that born of the respect for and memory of one that has died.

On the flip side of my father's careers, my mother worked for over a decade as a Lamaze instructor. So, in the midst of my father's stories of death were my mother's accounts of births, of beginnings, of thebeginning. I think that the viewing these extremes as a child really forces one to see life as a process.

And like any process, success really only comes at the end, when the process is finished. The people that you've touched, the happiness that you've created and shared, the comfort that you've given. At the end, if you can look with joy and wonder at these, then your life has been successful.

I think that this is certainly the secret to dealing with death. But also, I believe, the secret to dealing with life. Rejoice at what you've done, be proud of who you are. Revel in your living.

© copyright, 1997, Jason M. Wallin
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