We all have two lives. The second one begins when we realize we only have one.—Confucius
Eugenie was telling me how wonderful she felt. This was unusual and unexpected because she was in her early 70s and had several health challenges, but on this day she told me:
“Something has shifted, and it’s all because I did something I’ve been putting off for a long time.”
“What’s that then?” I enquired, my curiosity growing.
“I found courage I didn’t know I had, and instead of ignoring the fact that my Mum died at age 74, which I will be shortly, I faced the possibility that I might die then too. It was scary, but I have similar health challenges to her, and it felt important.”
“And what happened?” By now I was listening intently.
“It was as if I turned around and faced this fact head on, instead of shying away from it. And when I did that, I discovered that, actually, it was okay – more than okay. Yes, if I died next year, I would be really sad to have missed seeing my granddaughter grow up, and how my garden develops, and not be able to travel to see my latest grandson. But I also realised that in facing this fact my fear had dropped away. So, although my preference is still to live as long as possible, now it’s okay to admit that one day, I will, in fact, die.”
“That sounds like it was a really momentous moment,” I said.
“Yes, because what then happened was that I made a list of things I felt would be a good idea to attend to in this next year, so that it will be easier for my family if I did die. I could never do that before because it made me think I might be almost obliged to die!”
We laughed at that together.
“But in fact, once I had accepted that all life, everywhere, always comes to an end, it was as if I had given myself permission to go, when the time is right for that.”
And then Eugenie realized that with the fear having lessened considerably, her eyes were opened to “where I am now, what I can do now, and what I’ve got around me now. It opened me up to living life right here, right now.”
That sounds so refreshing, doesn’t it? Somehow, in facing the fear, she could look at life afresh. She still has her niggly health challenges, she still finds it hard to believe she might never see her new grandson in the flesh, but if that is the way it has to be, then she has accepted that possibility.
“And that has brought me a peace of mind that I never knew existed. It is wonderful, because I’ve had a very busy mind all my life, always dotting around looking for the next new shiny thing to distract me.”
And by facing this one thing she was terrified of, Eugenie has discovered it’s not so terrifying after all! And in fact, it has given her a new lease of life of an entirely different sort.
“Wow.” I was awed by this wonderful woman’s story, and couldn’t help but ask, “Was there anything you did that helped you to face that fear?”
Her answer was simple: A book on end-of-life planning.
“There was something so practical about it, that the process of reading it and answering the questions somehow lessened the fear. It was really odd, as that’s the last thing I would have expected.”
But, half-way through, Eugenie realised her fascination with the practicality of planning for her later life was greater than her fear. That’s what gave her the courage to continue reading, and to implement the tips as she read along.
Eugenie is far from being the only person afraid of death and dying. Seeing how at peace she had become made me want to share her story. Because indeed, it is very important to admit that 100% of us will die. That is just a fact, no matter how you look at it.
So consider this: if you had died yesterday, would the evidence that you had lived be ordered and easily understandable for your family and/or friends to take care of? Because if that’s not the case, then maybe it’s time to dig deep, embrace your own courage like Eugenie did and find your own way to a new lease of life.
Are you scared of the thought of death? Does this fear stop you from pre-planning? Have you found any tools that helped you conquer your fear of death?