On accepting the inevitability of death and the importance of embracing an attitude of gratefulness towards life.
Forget all else, Lucilius, and concentrate your thoughts on this one thing: not to fear the name of death. Through long reflection make death one of your close acquaintances, so that, if the situation arises, you are able even to go out and meet it — Seneca, Letters From a Stoic
“Knock, Knock” Death is at your doorstep, what do you do?
Option 1 You are hiding in a dark corner, despairing and utilizing every dirty trick in your arsenal to keep him from laying his cold hands on you. Thus prolonging your existence but at a very steep cost. Because he will get to you sooner or later. By bashing the door open if he has to, carrying you on his back while you are screaming and flailing, like a child. And there you are, facing death in a state of despair, fighting him until your last breath is passed.
Option 2 You are afraid of discussing the subject of mortality, and yet you invite death to come inside your humble abode. A wide grin spreads onto his face as he engages you in conversation. He tells you why everyone and everything that is given by nature has to return to nature. That the only constant in this world is the state of transmutation.
In the end, you still do not want to die, but you see why it is necessary. You see that the cycle of life must go on. And thus, you do not blame death. And, when it is your time to go, you take his hand resolutely, still capable of walking by yourself, and on you go, dying with your dignity still intact. Going in peace.
How do you want to face death?
This anecdote is, of course, a simplification of our relationship with death, but what I mean to say is that we can choose how to interact with death. Either through acceptance and respect or through despair and despondency.
Then again, It is easier said than done. I recognize that it is only when we hear death knocking at our own door that we know whether or not we are ready to accept him. But, we can at the very least do our best while alive to foster a spirit of acceptance through deep introspective reflection and discussion of death.
Because then we may reach a point when we do not fear the name of death. A point when mortality is not a subject that inspires fear and distress, but instead gratefulness and love.
Ultimately, we may thus learn to see that; while aging does indeed mean that the eve of our death comes closer, this may not be seen as such a bad thing. Rather than good or bad, it just is.
Foster Gratefulness Towards Life and Acceptance Towards Death
Under no circumstances ever say “I have lost something.” Only “I returned it”. Did a child of yours die? No, it was returned. Your wife died? No, she was returned. “My land was confiscated”. No, it too was returned. “But the person who took it was a thief”. Why concern yourself with the means by which the original giver effects its return? As long as he entrusts it to you, look after it as something your to enjoy only for a time. — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
In coping with death, I have been duly inspired by the concept of the cycle of life. The way I see it, we have been granted the gift of life, but at one condition — that we return what has been given when time is due. Per this view, I try and see every moment as something to be grateful for rather than something I am entitled to.
After all, we never know when time is due. It is pure naivety to expect another day, another month, another year. And yet, I confess, it is hard not to. But that’s all the more reason to have these conversations; that’s all the more reason not to avoid talking and thinking about death.
Fostering an attitude of gratefulness towards life also leads down a path of acceptance of death. Because when life is no longer taken for granted, when we understand the fragility of our own existence, that’s also when we see how natural death is.
One may thus realize that life and death are interconnected and that one cannot exist without the other. Therefore, if you love life, also accept death. Death is, after all, also part of life. If life is the journey, then death is the end. And all journeys must have an end.
This article must also have an end, and this is it.
But before I go, here’s one more thing.
Death will come for all of us… when? We do not know. But if you want to be ready once it does, keep in mind that you need not despair. Death is not an evil to be conquered — it is part of life.
Part of our contract with nature. Thus, focus instead on being grateful for the time we have been given. Take death’s hand resolutely and with your head held high. Let your last moments be your greatest.