Did You Forget That You Were Going to Die?

Did You Forget?
For those of you who know Rebecca, you know she and identical twin sister Jenny bicker all of the time.   After one of many heated arguments with Jenny, Rebecca called her husband KC in tears.  Initially he comforted her but then, when she launched into righteous indignation at her sister’s outrageous behavior, he said “Did you forget…?  Did you forget that you are dying?”

She had forgotten 
The abrupt reminder of her mortality, not surprisingly, stopped Rebecca in her tracks.  She realized that she had, indeed, forgotten.

She had been immersed for the last two months in helping her mother downsize from her home of 40 years, going through endless arrays of memory-laden objects (letters, clothing, photo albums, furniture, paintings, family heirlooms, etc.).  It was highly unsettling—trying to determine what to let go and what to keep—especially things that archived the family history.  If they were thrown away or given away, that legacy would be irretrievably lost.

Knowing you are going to die, what do you want to experience?
So in the midst of this angst, it felt particularly timely to be reminded of the impermanence of our lives.  KC pushed it even further, challenging Rebecca that “in realizing that you are going to die, you have to decide what you want to experience with the indefinite yet most certainly finite amount of time that you have left.”

He meant this particularly with reference to the quality of experience she wanted to have with the people in her life–at that moment, in that day, and in her life.

Enjoyment and Love
For a moment, for Rebecca, it was strikingly clear that, no surprise really, most of the things that frustrated her about her sister were truly insignificant in the larger scheme of things. Even the things that were more consequential did not outweigh the enjoyment and love she felt toward her sister.

Envisioning what you want to experience with each person
Although Rebecca has not been able to maintain that clarity at every moment since KC posed his provocative question, it has really helped her to shift from negative interpersonal dynamics with others. It doesn’t change the fact that she might disagree or be frustrated by someone else’s behavior, but she is trying to envision what experience she wants most with that person and to ask what actions will support that.

So for yourself today, when you realize that you are going to die, what quality of experience do you want to have with the now?  Think about that with the people in your life, with yourself and/or with anything else that is a powerful force in your life.

Positively, Rebecca and Gioia

Art Directive
Make art (draw, paint, sculpt, collage) about the one thing that you want to unconditionally experience in your now(s)?  Don’t worry about what response your mind gives you or how your art responds, just let your intuition answer.