If you only had a very short time to live; if some authority — medical, political, religious — said you would die very soon, you'd live differently because you knew you were dying. Death would be so close, you could not avoid its presence.
What if you knew for a fact you had only weeks, not years, then only days, then only hours, then minutes, then gone forever? Life as you've known it would be completely and irrevocably gone. If you knew, you'd live differently.
But you don't know when it will happen, and so you, like the rest of us, live as if you've got plenty of time. By not thinking about our own impending death, we get to avoid the horror, but we also miss out on something really good.
People who have been given a terminal diagnosis say that knowing we only have months before we die tends to wake us up out of our stupor. We are, in a sense, drugged by the dramas of pettiness.
Almost every complaint we normally have seems petty compared to death. Car troubles, money troubles, arguments over the everyday ache of broken hearts, broken homes, broken dreams — we would gladly have them rather than death.
Death makes us sit up and take notice of what's really and truly the most dear. And people who have faced death often say it was a gift to (as the song says) "live like you were dying." People who face death talk sweeter and give forgiveness they've been denying.
People who face death begin to really live, really care, really love. The bucket list of things you want to do before you die becomes doable. The closeness of death helps us find the time to claim them. We call old friends. We go hang gliding. We take the trip and watch the island sunset together. We finish important tasks. Write our great works. Paint what we see in our hearts.
We don't waste our remaining precious hours in the mundane or trivial or unnecessary negative stuff. We brush aside all the clutter of the low quality to make more room for the truly important.
Would you bother with the things that are wrong if it meant less time with those you love? You'd give up battling the wrong and you'd want only to make more right. You'd stop complaining about your loved ones' faults and want only to show your appreciation and gratitude.
Death brings words of love. Death brings the power to go on adventures, do great works, take long, sweet, deep breaths of air.
Death separates chaff from grain, the unimportant from the dear. Death wakes us up and says, "Live while you can!" So death brings the sweetest life.
Wouldn't you like to have that kind of aliveness without having to die soon? What prevents it? The fear of death is one thing that prevents it. We don't want to think about death because it is a horrible thought. When we die, we leave the people we love. That's one of the greatest horrors of death: We lose the ones we love. If you can face up to the bad part, you get the rewards of the good part.
Confront it. Be with it. Feel it. Because here's the thing: Death approaches! Death always approaches. Now, while your death seems years away, you sort of pretend it doesn't exist. But even it if is years away, it is still there waiting for you at the end of the track and every day it's closer.
And without a doubt, the moment will come when death is so close you have no choice but to face it and take your last breath.
I say better sooner than later. Better to live fully between now and death rather than live fully in the few seconds between the realization of imminent death and death itself.
But to do that, you have to face the horror.
People want to avoid thinking about death, but death comes no matter what you do — and since it brings and increased ability to live — it makes good sense to dwell on it. Live like you were dying.
This is a great motto: Live! Death approaches!
Death brings and increased ability to see what's important. It gives you the motivation to do what you've always wanted to do. It gives you courage. Death enriches life. Death makes life better! Sweeter. More precious.
Death enlightens. Death empowers. Death enriches. Well, not death itself, but the awareness of death.
Avoiding death drains us and dulls our senses. Facing death empowers us and heightens our senses. The horror of the separation of the ultimate end creates great joy at being alive. It is the ultimate comparison reframe. It puts us in touch with the rapture of embracing the people we love.
So don't avoid thoughts of death — but rather remind yourself your death is guaranteed. Feel it. Feel the inevitability of it. Feel the horror of it. And then open your eyes and realize you are now alive.
Live! Death approaches.
It's not morbid to stay aware of your inevitable death. It's magical.
The point is: Death does approach. And the sooner you're aware of death, the sooner you get to turn up the volume on life. Death turns up the volume. Death counsels life. Connected to death, we gain the power to live.
Klassy Evans is the editor of Principles For Personal Growth, and the co-author of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English) and Fill Your Tank With Freedom.