A Year in the Death 1/5/21
Kathy and I took down our Christmas tree and other holiday decorations on Saturday afternoon. That was unusually early for us. But our schedules over the next few weeks are such that if we didn’t take the decorations down over the weekend, the next earliest we could take them down would be the weekend of January 16–17. And that seemed too long to keep them up.
As we worked, I started to notice how many times one of us alluded to what we should do differently next year when we put them up. And that got me thinking about this writing project.
Isn’t it amazing how often we talk about the future as if it were an absolute certainty? We discuss our next day, week, month, year…as if it were a given we’ll be around to experience them.
On one hand, this expectation of the future is perfectly naturally and beneficial. After all, living 100% for the here and now could lead to disastrous consequences in our relationships, financial situations, physical health, and myriad other areas of our lives.
However, our future orientation also comes with drawbacks. The biggest of which is wasting time — a commodity that should be treated as our most priceless possession but is often spent frivolously, as if we possessed it in endless abundance.
People who are in the final stages of their lives understand this. I’ve read studies showing that people who are dying narrow their lives’ focus to only those things that truly matter to them: friends, families, bucket-list items, etc.
This makes perfect sense. But why does it take a terminal diagnosis to realize this? Why do we humans waste so much of our lives on absolutely meaningless, if not outright detrimental, things — and then if we’re lucky and don’t die unexpectedly, try to cram a full, rich life into our final days, weeks, or months?
So, yes, there are things Kathy and I will do differently next year when…sorry… IF we are fortunate enough to be around then to decorate our tree and the rest of the house. But in the meantime, you can bet we’ll be decorating our tree of life with plenty of ornamental memories…of travel, of family celebrations, of running races and triathlons, of beautiful sunsets and stunning sunrises, of making love with (or simply time for) each other. Because tomorrow — let alone December 25, 2021— is not a given for any of us.
This is part of a year-long series I’ve entitled “A Year in the Death.” As I discussed in my first entry on January 1, I am going to contemplate and write about death each day of 2021. Some days, my thoughts and writings may be detailed essays. On others, they may be little more than the contemplation of a quote about death or a piece of art representing death or dying. Also, I may not share every daily contemplation with you, reserving my thoughts to my private journal. But I am committed to the practice and invite you to follow along throughout the course of the year.