The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our separate ways, I to die, and you to live. Which of these two is better only God knows. - Socrates
Austin Hodgens, a talented writer that I follow at The Return of The Modern Philosopher, recently posed a compelling question on his Friday Night Think Tank. It's definitely worth a read and you can find it at the link above. He has a great reason for asking as well.
The question was something like this: If given a choice, would you prefer to die quickly and unexpectedly - leaving no time for goodbyes and preparations or to know it's coming and have time for those things.
The comments were also interesting. It's enlightening to see how people respond to being reminded of the eventuality instead of the possibility of death.
What Austin's post did for me is to remind me of how I want to live until then. Without regret.
Since I don't get to vote on my exit strategy I guess I'd better be OK with whichever way it goes. Meanwhile, I want to live in a way that leaves no doubt in the minds of those I care about whether or not I loved them.
I also want to live in a way that leaves no guilt for those left behind. I want my family and friends to know without a doubt that I knew they loved me too. I don't want anyone nursing a case of the "only ifs."
I've attended too many funerals where one or more of the mourners felt as though they'd bitterly disappointed the departed over some small thing they worried was left undone. That's a lot of agony with little remedy. To what end?
Yes, in an ideal world we'd have endless time to spend with our loved ones. We'd say everything deep in our hearts - expressed in flowery prose. But, since none of us were born into that world, we're pretty much left with the one we have. The one that requires us to work for our support, and invest time to raise our children. That same world where we have problems, and sickness, and yes, even a few other interests as well. It's called life and we all can get quite busy just living it!.
In my way of thinking, if I haven't given my loved ones what they need beforehand, I probably won't be able to provide it on my deathbed either. (They call it deathbed for a reason.) For me that rules out the desire to linger to say goodbye.
My husband, children, extended family and friends have done plenty over the years to leave no doubt as to whether or not they care. No one owes me more of anything to feel OK if I shuffle off my mortal coil later this afternoon. It's enough! More than I could ask for.
There's not a Hallmark card, trinket, flower, phone call or expression that I ever wanted or needed that hasn't already been accounted for. (My kids know my stance on the cards - do not buy them!)
Being able to reach this point of peace comes as a result of two things: understanding and gratitude.
Understanding that the only person who's ever been responsible for my happiness is me. It's been up to me all along! That leaves everyone else off the hook and everything they've done on top of that has been gravy. Delicious gravy!
Gratitude for the love, kindness, support, and wonderful memories. Even on my most horrible days, my blessings have far outweighed my complaints. (And on some of those days I actually noticed!)
Yes, there is a THE END looming at the conclusion of our stories, but while we're still writing them, why not add some classy transitions to make it easier for those closing the book on the last chapter?
How about you? While the question can only ever be hypothetical, have you considered which exit strategy you'd prefer? Maybe the better question to consider is how to make it easiest for those you'll be leaving behind. After all, you actually do get a choice there.