Many people don’t want to contemplate a cremation in Bellingham, WA because they don’t like the idea of getting too close to death.
People die every day. But what kind of quality did the years, or months, or weeks, or days, or hours before their deaths have? Were the people who died living actively and independently as much as possible or were they confined in facilities, perhaps having limited or no mobility, staring at nothing but four walls every day?
Even if we knew these people well, as family members or friends, we may have distanced ourselves from death itself, and, in particular, from their deaths, because we’re the message that science, technology, and medicine gives us is that staying alive for as long as possible is what’s most important and that’s what we should focus on.
Perhaps we didn’t visit them very often if we weren’t in caregiving role because we found being around dying and death to be too depressing.
If we were in a caregiving role, we may have been regularly taking them to doctor’s appointments, or to the emergency room when a more serious issue arose, and then staying with them throughout each hospital stay that was designed to prevent them from dying.
This focus on living no matter what the cost has a direct relationship to the way most of us view with dying and death. Most of us don’t want to talk about it. Most of us don’t want to think about it. And most of us don’t want to be anywhere near it, whether it’s another person or ourselves that is experiencing it.
It’s interesting that even the current tenor of funeral and memorial services reflects a focus on life. Traditional mourning and acknowledging the death and loss of people has almost all but disappeared, replaced, in large part, by celebrations of life, where death and dying are not discussed, but only happy memories from deceased people’s lives.
What is the cost of our distancing ourselves from death?
One cost is that people may be get more quantity of life, but they lose quality of life in the process.
That is why the story of Norma Bauerschmidt, who at age 90 decided not to get treatment for her terminal cancer, but instead to spend the remainder of her traveling across America with her son and daughter-in-law. When Bauerschmidt died a year later, the quality of her life during her travels was captured by social media in Driving Ms. Norma.
Another cost of distancing ourselves from death is that we are unprepared for, don’t know how to handle, and are afraid of death. We see death as an aberration instead as a natural part of the biological process of all living things.
The reality is that life starts to end at the moment it begins. It may take a long time or a short time to end, but it is a certainty that we live with from the very minute we breathe the first breath of life.
Instead of distancing ourselves from death, we need to draw closer to the process of dying and death. Ultimately, the good it will accomplish in our lives is priceless. Once we realize that our lives are finite, we will value them more and make better use of them before our day of death comes.