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A Life Well Lived,
A Death Well Met
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So what do I mean by “a life well lived and a death well met”? Many things, perhaps even some that you may think of that do not come so readily to my mind. Certainly, many of us hope to have lived well. And each of us hopes death will be gentle when it comes. I like to think that living well—in the sense of kindness, service, and generosity of spirit—prepares us for death, both ours and that of our loved ones. I also like to think that I will welcome my time of my passing if I have done my best to reconcile old wounds and conflicts. In contemplating this phrase, my attention becomes focused on my own mortality, on the imminence of my death regardless of my health, on what old conflicts may yet need to be healed.
A “life well lived” does not refer to our accomplishments, but rather to an attitude, a joie de vivre, an emotional oomph we bring to each breath, each step, each experience, each encounter. Every day is new and fresh.
This attitude can start at any time. For the terminally ill, this attitude calls them to live beyond, perhaps outside of, their physical confinement and pain. It calls them to see the joy to be found even within the boundaries of the day stretching out before them. In my experience, the man or woman destined to die tomorrow often finds more peace and joy in today than those of us who have a less definite expiration date.
Much of these writings predate my formal hospice service. At the time I wrote them I wasn’t necessarily aware that they were about living and dying. Only later did I see it. Some are reflections on the individuals I’ve sat with. Some contemplate my own passing. In many I try to imagine what the other person feels as they age and realize tomorrow may not come.
It is my hope that, depending on your relationship to death and dying, you will find some comfort, inspiration, and kinship in these words, that you will see yourself, or your parent, or the friend you lost in them. May you have a life well lived and a death well met.