Dying. The “living” part of the the Big Exit. In a perfect world it’s the time you’re getting it together, mending relationships, teaching your children, making love to your partner, getting right with God and facing your mortality with bravery and grace. Dying is active, and doing it well is purposeful. It’s continuing to live though death is close, continuing to grow even when there’s seemingly no future.
Not an easy task – mostly because whatever time we have left isn’t always mystical and poignant, but also irritating and mundane. We grow impatient with life because it is consumed by the tedium of the everyday. At a time when we’re looking for Meaning, capital M, a dying person may stop caring about (seemingly) meaningless stuff – small talk, sweeping under the couch, forcing green food on the kids, local politics – because they have more important tasks at hand. The weight of future normalcy starts to be shifted onto the shoulders of the living and away from the dying. It is an inevitable and natural occurrence, but it can be the cause of premature and unnecessary isolation if you’re not being mindful. Ya gotta watch it or the whole dying thing might really hurt your marriage.
Yes, I know, I made a bad joke, but it’s also the truth. Living while dying is a paradox, and all the questions we wrestle with during this time present themselves as such. How do we prepare for a life alone while falling in love more everyday with the one who will leave you? How do we mourn the future our children will know without us while trying to saturate their time now with pure joy? How do we balance the mundanity of everyday life with the spiritual urgency of dying? Two halves, one truth, no answer.
I’m new at this. From my vantage point I believe there is no difference between living well and dying well. The same rules apply, though the game may have changed dramatically. In the end your relationships may be left at death’s threshold with the grocery lists and the dust bunnies, but until then we still have lives to live. Be mindful and remember to shoulder the burdens together as best you can, even the tedium of the everyday. Cultivate love and understanding, and be here until it’s time to go. Live together, die still growing, and you will never be alone.