Updated: Apr 24, 2019
Death and dying- last night's lecture topic. I've lectured on it at least 20 times before. It's always a moving topic to cover, but last night was sublime. It is truly a SUBLIME feeling when my students connect with a lesson and make meaning within a single class session. Last night, despite it being a Wednesday and the end of the term, they REALLY connected. I have many favorite topics, but this one now is at the very top of my list.
Why "Death & Dying?" It hasn't always been my favorite lecture. Why now?
Well, I have spent a LOT of time studying and examining dead people's lives in research for my current book project. Lots of dead people. It's been very intense over the last few months scouring birth records, death records, marriage announcements, and everything in between, As my eyes read names, dates, causes of death, and people present at deaths, it was starkly evident to me that our lives get boiled down to documents -- documents.
My life and its daily comings and goings seem incredibly important to me right now. Kids' dance classes, work meetings, laundry, a messy garage. When I die, however, a few simple documents will document my place on this Earth. None of the tasks and meetings and worries will matter.
One thing remains true no matter what kind of life I lead -- i will be gone one day. My life will have been LIVED. I get just one life, and it is certain that life will end at some point.
Every life I examined for my book -- no matter how grand or tragic -- each one of those individuals are gone now. And who remembers them? No one really remembers them.
One was a mayor. Another an author. Another a General and Judge. Most were parents and grandparents. And I am blood-related to all of them, yet I know so very little about any of them. I had no idea who these blood relatives were -- even though they lived in the same century as me. What I know about is people I am connected to NOW.... in the present.
So, the thing that rings in my head is so simple -- yet we all screw it up: The most beauty is found in the connections we have and meaning we make along the way in life. Connections -- big and small, fleeting and permanent -- are what matters at every stage of our life. Connection is what gives living meaning. We don't control our legacy, our length of living, or who remembers us. But we do control how we choose to connect (or not) with the ones with whom we share time and space while living.
Doing all this research makes one thing clear: Life is short; then we die.
What will you be remembered for? Who do you connect with now in the present? Which one matters more to you?
What at are you doing now -- today -- to live your ONE life to its fullest before you become summarized in your death certificate?
--Erin L. Richman