Death teaches us how to live more fully


Have been contemplating death–and life–since yesterday’s visit to the cemetery.

How hard it can be to say goodbye to those we love.  How hard it is to watch our loved ones die.  How hard it can be to let the earth claim the bones of our precious friend or family. 

Peeking through the fence

I think how death is our constant companion–whether we are aware of its presence or not.

I think how we cannot walk in the woods without killing ants and insects. 

How death walks alongside life, daily.

Precious life, precious death

How we are forced to let go of things we love all the time.  We become attached to people, places, things.  Life moves on and death dances in–and life changes all around us.

We hurt with the passing because we have loved the old form so much.  We hurt because we’re scared of our own mortality.  Because the old was comfortable, familiar, precious, dear.  Because the new is still uncomfortable, unfamiliar, disconcerting.

We take a deep breath and allow ourselves to love the new.

Sometimes it takes time.

Chipmunk offerings

Life is always changing, dancing.  Every in-breath follows an out-breath.  Every sunset follows a sunrise.  Every winter follows an autumn.  Every flower follows a seed.

Life teaches us–oh patient teacher!–to release as surely as we grasp.  To kiss goodbye as surely as we hug hello.  To allow “letting go” to be a precious practice, a precious love.

More offerings

This morning the sun rises–whether we see it or not.  Flakes of snow may blow on the horizon.  How gracefully can we release autumn’s golden splendor?  How gracefully can we surrender to precious white, icy cold, twinkling snowy beauty?

Will we fret or will we allow the new to show us its gifts, its still-hidden possibilities?

Thank you, death, for teaching us to live more fully.  To taste more exquisitely.  To feel more intensely.  To appreciate what we have–while we still have it.

To death, dear reader.  To life!

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
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23 Responses to Death teaches us how to live more fully

  1. Sue says:

    You post today reminded me of this quote:
    “Without the awareness of death everything is ordinary, trivial. It is only because death is stalking us that the world is an unfathomable mystery.” ~don Juan Matus

  2. holessence says:

    “Thank you, death, for teaching us to live more fully.”

    Kathy – I’m in full agreement that when we shift our perspective (lens) to death, our view becomes extraordinary.

  3. janet says:

    My dad has been dying for the past week.
    Or is that just when he stopped eating?
    My dad has been dying for the past two years.
    Or is that simply when his Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s & strokes combined to make him utterly dependent on others?
    My dad has been dying since 2002 when he was diagnosed with dementia-leaning-towards-Alzheimers.
    Or is that when he just started to lose functionality?

    How far back do we trace the beginnings of death? To middle age? To the first creaky joint? The first line on our face? To the moment of our birth, I guess. That we will die is the only certainty in our lives. Everything else is optional and uncertain. Can we learn to live with this knowing? To celebrate that every breath is a little death?

    Oh joy for my life! And joy also for my death!

    Thank you Kathy for the lovely post and beautiful cemetery photos ❤

  4. Dearest,

    Thank you.
    The gifts of this time for me have been rich and powerful. My Mom’s presence sings to me throughout the day in unexpected ways.
    And your walk through the cemetary gives me comfort to think that someone is strolling through Lakeview Cemetary, finding the freshly laid sod over the place where Mom’s ashes reside.
    Someone will pause and look at her headstone, nestled between my Dad, Robert F. Banks and the spot where my Stepfather will one day rest.

    Easy does it.
    All of it.

    All my love and gratitude for your awareness,
    and the comment about ants- I think about that all the time!
    SPS I love your new theme!

  5. barb says:

    Hi Kathy, I just finished Pema Chodron’s WHEN THINGS FALL APART and have been musing on the topic you chose for today – Death. When I met Death in person last January, I was shocked at my reaction. I barricaded myself, fought for my life, and thought I kept Death at bay. But, of course, it just wasn’t ready to take me yet – everything in its own good time. I think maybe I learned some lessons, though. I’m not so afraid anymore. I breathe in and feel alive, breathe out and give thanks. The old stones have so much character, don’t they? I visited the old cemetery in Eagle Harbor last year – the crumble of change is present in the ancient stones.

  6. gigi says:

    Love the pictures. What a beautiful cemetery.

  7. Susan D says:

    Yes, to death, and to life. Appreciating so much your expressions over the last 2 days … resonating, resonating like a gentle drum beat…

  8. Karma says:

    Scary topic for me. I understand the idea of death allowing us to appreciate life while we have it, but I always try to push it to the back of my mind. As I watch my mother age (she is a mere 61, in wonderful health and getting re-married this weekend, eloping!) I can’t help but imagine myself at her age. My mother-in-law turns 80 next week and I imagine myself at her age. I sadly imagine myself as a widow someday as my father-in-law died at the young age of 54 of heart disease, many years before I met my husband. I see very old trees and think of them being there long before I was born and long after I am gone and I am melancholy. I realize our mortality is something we can’t avoid, but I always try to avoid acknowledging it.

  9. Elisa's Spot says:

    Sits nicely, thinking, swinging my feet.

    I thought I had to let go of a job. I was set to letting it go, by hanging tightly onto the things surrounding it. I got a raise before I even began to get paid. It is so odd the reaction to the very idea, whatever causes it, that stability and security will be lost that causes us(ok I mean me) to do the darndest (ok I mean insane-type) things! I let go when I exhale. I let go when I burp. I let go when I urinate. I do not become upset about these things (thank you Lord!!). What makes other things so different?

    I have decided that I would like to reside in the Pesqui place. I have NO idea how I’d learn to spell it.

  10. Colleen says:

    I’m paraphrasing?? some words (not mine) that I have scribbled on a piece of paper that has been on my bedside table for a few weeks now.

    “…..we die at exactly the right time. Not an instant too soon or an instant too late”.

    For some reason they rest easily in my thougts…..watching my mom easing into her 90’s with a similar understanding and acceptance of her life and inevitable death and watching Rick’s grandmother leave (25 years ago) with much the same understanding.

    Beautiful words Kathy…..”how gracefully can we release?”….”how gracefully can we surrender?” And how perfect is it that every moment is a release and a surrender. And every breathe. How amazing we all are!!

  11. Dawn says:

    Is it harder to let go when your loved one dies violently and unexpectedly? Or when you have to sit by the bed and watch a slow death? That’s a discussion we’ve had here off and on for the past 6 years. Either way, it certainly does make you sit up and take notice and want to make sure you’re spending whatever time you have left in the best possible way.

  12. Oh Kathy…Thanks SO much for this today.
    As my mom still is in the hospital, there is a deep longing for what used to be ()es tears are flowing as – write this)….There is also such confusion, as it seems noone is willing to change and addrees this time…I have my own reservations…will I sacrifice my marriage….will I sacrifice my work….will – sacrifice my life to try to help her….ther will be many doctor visits, wound changes and therapy the next several weeks and noone is standing and raising their hand…I am her only daughter…
    Wow this is somethimg that came at me a million mile an hour and now I don’t know just how to handle it…

  13. Carol says:

    Death begins the moment we are born. It culminates far too early for some, far too late for others, at just the right moment for many. Is there a point to life once we lose our ability to function? Perhaps for those who will survive us it is important for some, a burden for others. The only certainty is that life is indefinite and we must embrace what we have while we can.

    Your photos were beautiful accompaniment to your lovely text.

  14. Robin says:

    How’d you get to be so wise? 🙂

    The light and colors are rich and beautiful in your pictures. I’d really like to visit that cemetery someday. You’ve made it look so interesting.

  15. The circle of life is a power even us humans can not avoid as much as we try to. Thank for a most introspective essay. My trip to a cemetery recently was done in search of images but one can not help to wonder when reading the chiseled names, dates and inscriptions of those people who lived before of death, life and the meaning of the universe.

  16. Dad says:

    I like the new format, Kath, very good. The last time I was in Sandusky I stopped at your grandma and grandpa Orton’s graves, pulled a few weeds and remembered good old times. Then I stopped at the Watertown cemetery at your grandma and grandpa Sheldon’s graves and went down “memory lane” again! Both stops made me appreciate the beauty and gift of life.

  17. Kathy says:

    Dear friends and family, thank you for sharing your stories of death–and life. I paused with each of your comments and honored what you shared. It sounds like most of you have reached that place of acceptance, even when Death’s bite was painful and challenging. Blessings to all of you.

  18. Marianne says:

    It’s so true. Death is a wonderful teacher. I have a book called, “Living in the Light of Death, On the Art of Being Truly Alive.” I forgot about it actually. It’s been sitting on my book shelf for years. Never read it. I think, that while the title intrigued me, I was afraid to read it. I think the fear is gone now.

  19. Kathy says:

    It’s good when the fear goes…Death is a wonderful teacher. (I suppose can be a little intimidating at times!)

  20. Cindy Lou says:

    Amen and amen….once again, I am amazed and humbled by all of the wisdom that is shared here.

Thank you for reading. May you be blessed in your life...may you find joy in the simple things...

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