Balancing life and death: the mortal's dilemma

Posted by Karen M. Wyatt on February 25, 2012 at 8:00 AM
A patient with terminal cancer once asked me “How will I know when it is time to stop living and start dying?”
Her question represents the quintessential dilemma we each must face on our journey through this lifetime. We know we are alive and yet we are also aware that we will someday die. Where does our focus belong?
Our contemporary culture has chosen in some ways to avoid the discomfort of this dilemma by denying death and removing it from our daily lives. We send many of our ill elderly to nursing homes or hospitals to die. We spend billions of dollars on anti-aging products, as if we could actually stop the process of growing older. We resist change because we cannot bear to let the past die.
And yet, it is the fact that life is fleeting that makes it so sweet. Each moment becomes precious when we know it will not last. When we embrace our mortality we can infuse our lives with meaning and significance, simply because each moment is unrepeatable and rare.
My answer to my patient was to remind her that all of us are always both, living and dying at the same time, even if we don’t have a terminal illness. The trick is to balance between those two realities: knowing in every moment that we will die and simultaneously living life to the fullest extent we are capable.
When we can find that delicate balance between living and dying then we can awaken to the beauty that surrounds us; love can flourish, miracles can happen, and we can finally be at peace.

Categories: Death & Dying, Spirituality, Transformation

Copyright ©2010 Karen Wyatt, MD

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