All Saints Day

ImageToday is All Saints Day, when we pay respect to the dead and celebrate their live. Religiously, it is a day of intense praying, to help all souls making the transition to heaven.

Obviously, a lot of us celebrate Halloween not knowing this, which I think is fine. If you have kids and/or like to dress in costume, there is nothing wrong with doing it always on the same night of the year. As far as I see it, you don’t need a reason to party.

What sometimes baffles me is the fact we rarely talk about death and dying. As if not talking about it would make it happen. The ONLY thing that we ALL have in common – we are all going to die.

Deep down inside we mostly live as if we had no problem with death. Our attitude to life in general is based on knowing that it will have an end. We save for retirement, make life insurances, eat healthy and take care of ourselves so we can have not only good lives, but also longer lives.

Terminal ill patients are often quoted saying “now I have a limited time on earth, I’ll make the most of it”, which usually includes a bucket list that will be completed as soon as possible. It sounds fair to me. Not only you are told you won’t have a lot of time left with your loved ones, but this time usually implies tortuous treatments, surgeries, loss of independence, loss of cognitive functions and even physiological ones. Not only you don’t have much time, but the time you have left will mostly suck. Which is why we should definitely focus more on life quality and palliative care for this patients and not on the lack of their longevity. But this is a different topic.

The truth is we all have a limited time on earth, and we should all make the most of it. We can be hit by a truck, be violently mugged, have a stroke, cardiac arrest, slip and hit our head… and die. These are the deaths that usually leave the loved ones feeling like the floor just disappear off their feet and they are being hit by a wall at the same time, without notice. “He had all his life ahead of him”… maybe he did, maybe he didn’t.

I believe this is a fairly recent problem, and also more of a western society problem. It wasn’t rare to give birth to more than ten children when our great-grandparents were alive, in the same way that it wasn’t rare for some of those children to die at birth or early childhood (third world countries still face this reality now). People now have fewer children, and have them later in life. In an uneventful life, kids might experience a kind of grief when the old grandparents die, and later in live, when they are grown-ups and their own parents pass away.

We lost contact with death. We don’t see it and refuse to think about it.

I’ve decided some time ago to frequently question myself on “if I died today, would I be happy with my life?” Friends think is weird, I find it comforting. And it makes me live my life better. I don’t have a bucket list. I don’t want to jump from a plane, surf the biggest wave or climb the tallest mountain. A lot of this implies a rush of adrenaline that would probably give me a heart attack, so I don’t see the point in it.

What I do is make sure that the most things that happen in my life are the result of decisions I make and not others make by me, for good or for worse. Each day I choose to wake up early or late, take a lot of time putting on make up or just leave the house. What happens if the light is out and the alarm clock doesn’t go off? I decide what happens next: rush outside, take my time, call people at work and let them know.

I remember a university professor saying that she didn’t have a great career outside our country because meanwhile she became pregnant, and there were kids, and then became complicated. It sounded like life had tricked her and there was nothing she could do about it. She sounded bitter. I found it strange at that time. I still find it strange now. If you want to have children and focus on that instead of your career, there’s nothing wrong with that. But own it. Decide what you want and why you want it and go for it. You will always wonder what would have happen if you chose the other option, but then you will know why you chose what you did, and it will reassure you.  It will also mean that you won’t be angry with anybody. If you choose to take a job and then you don’t like it, either you quit, or you stick to it because there is a strong reason for you not to quit (no jobs out there, children to feed…), which then makes it worth it. Maybe you can’t decide a lot in your life, but you can certainly decide how to react to and how to stand in it.

Some people like to be angry and like to complain. I believe they make the worst decisions because they like the drama. I don’t understand, like or have patience for people like that. I don’t get it. I don’t like to be angry or sad (it feels like my trachea is burning…), so I decided not to be angry or sad.  And when I die, either that is tomorrow, in two months or in sixty years, I don’t want to be angry. I want to be sad because life is good and I could do more of it, but reassured that my life was worth it and I lived it the best I knew how and decided, and not as a consequence of others life’s.