Personal Journeys with Gramma

Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.

Getting Happy by Dying

Cosmo, you're gonna die

“Cosmo, you’re gonna die.  No matter what you do, you’re gonna die just like everybody else.”

“Thank you, Rose.”

“You’re welcome.”

In the classic film MOONSTRUCK, Rose concludes that the reason her loving husband Cosmo is having a mid-life affair is that he’s afraid of death.  She can see no other reason why a man needs more than one woman.

Why talk about death on a beautiful summer day?  Recently, several of my friends have been forced to deal with death—the death of a loved one or even the prospect of personal death through disease.  Like Cosmo, we’re often afraid of death.  Is it an end—a period at the end of the sentence?  Does punishment await?  Does it hurt?  Isn’t it inevitably a loss?

Many people spend life sitting on an emotional park bench, waiting for the death bus to pick them up.  They’re born into limbo.  They’re convinced their lives have to be pointless drudgery.  They never stray from the rut.  They accept that they’ve already received what they deserve.  I know one man who wears a medical wrist monitor that he checks hourly, interrupting living to see if he’s dead yet.

Even without the dark seduction of heavy prescription drugs, many feel overwhelmed by the struggle of existence and choose suicide.  I don’t believe in early death as an ending.  To me, suicide is a fake exit.  You dash out the door only to discover that you’re entering the front door again.  No exit!  (I’m not sure euthanasia or so-called “mercy killing”–the kind of death terminal patients can choose–counts the same way.  After all, those patients finished 99.99% of the course.  But I’m not offering myself as an authority.  Ask yourself what the truth is.)

Death is a major character in my novel DEATH LOST DOMINION—forcing the human characters to consider their identities and the rationale behind living once you’ve survived.  Perhaps since we as human beings first attained an awareness of our selves, we’ve wanted to know why we have to die, seemingly so soon.  My character Pia speculates that “Death isn’t an out.  It’s a lens—a way to see.”

We’ve been deluded into thinking the finish is more important than the journey.  Like Pia and Carlos Castaneda, I believe death is a frame for living; it provides perspective.  Because there’s an end, we’re compelled to prioritize.  How do we want to spend our precious years?  With whom?  What do we wish we could do and why is that utterly impossible?  Is it more blessed to exist comfortably than to live brightly?  Why not me? 

Who are we sure to lose one day when we’re busy following our daily schedules?  Who have we stopped seeing as a gift?  How can we make the death of someone we love more meaningful?  What can we do with our leftover compassion?

On a beautiful summer day, taking a moment to remember that life is always a temporary condition may make the sun brighter, the breeze softer, the sound of laughter more musical.  Call a friend.  Go for a walk or dance or play—even if it’s only for a few minutes during lunch hour or after dinner.  Do something you would do if you were younger and more carefree.  Make this day wonderful.

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