Meet Joe Black.

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”
Mark Twain

I tried an intervention this week and I wanted to share it with my lovelies on this beautiful snowy morning. But first, I will provide you with some context for the intervention. My life has been visited by much death. From an early age, I lost grandparents, aunts, and friends. In September of my senior year in high school, three young classmates died in just three weeks. This was followed by more untimely loss in years to come.

In fact, one funeral I attended was so traumatic that I swore off funerals for several years. It was just too much to see my peers lying in coffins. The Grim Reaper is never far from where I sit. I know all too well that each moment is borrowed and The Reaper could cash his check at anytime.

This was never more evident than when I worked in cancer care. For almost two years, I worked with patients living and dying with cancer. This was coupled with two traumatic losses in my personal life. In therapy we talk about once you know something it is really hard (if not impossible) to unknow it. I know that I will die. I know that every one I love will die. Interestingly, knowing this has not been a burden. Without a doubt, knowing this has been one of the greatest gifts of my life. Death keeps it all in perspective. 

There is a Buddhist proverb that asks, “Imagine a bird on your shoulder every morning asking you if today was your day to die, would you be okay with that?” I can’t remember a day in the recent past where that question has not come to me. Most days the response is: I think so.

The Grim Reaper Intervention.

Imagine that right now The Grim Reaper has arrived to take you to the other side. However, the Reaper is feeling generous today and he offers you a deal. If you can persuasively argue why you should get more time he will consider your argument. And, depending on your argument you may get a year or several more years. It better be a good argument.

For those of you with a faith system, I understand that Heaven doesn’t sound like a bad place to land but consider with me all that you have here on Earth that has yet to be said, done, and resolved. If you go now, you’re gone from the people and places you love. 

As you argue, he asks:

“But why haven’t you done that already?”

“Why aren’t those things important to you now?”

“If you love them why don’t they know it now?”

“How do I know that when I leave you won’t go back to the way things were?”

“But you waste so much time worrying about nothing, why should I give you more time to waste?”

Remember you are pleading for your life. 

How would you answer? Do you deserve more time?

So far, it has been an interesting intervention in practice. I strongly believe that a constant awareness of death forces us to live. It is always there whether or not you want to face it. I suppose because I have experienced so much loss I have worked through most of my fear of this. I encourage you to consider your own mortality. It is the most intimate relationship in life. 

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieve it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. – Dylan Thomas



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