This past year, I have attended more funerals of people I know and love than I had attended in the past decade. I am always amazed at how thoughts of death and mortality become so real to me when I am faced with the death of someone I love. The part that amazes me most is that, when I’m not faced with death in this way, I tend to forget about it and live as if I will always be on this Earth. And, every reminder of death is another rude awakening.
We live in a world where everything is constantly changing and everything is temporary. Everything and everyone we know will be gone someday. Our lives and everything that we perceive as material reality is just a flash in the history of the universe, including the huge maple tree in my front yard that was a seedling 70 years before I was born.
28,000 Days Above the Ground
On average, our bodies will spend about 28,000 days breathing and moving around on the Earth. Then, they will probably spend hundreds of millions of days dissolving into the Earth.
It may seem morbid to think about this, but when we remind ourselves of our mortality, we are less likely to take our human selves too seriously. Almost all of the things that we worry about today will have no significance when our bones are dirt. In fact, most of the things that we worry about won’t even matter tomorrow, or even an hour from now.
What Comes With Us?
Everything that we collect, the career advances we make, the skills we learn and all our material possessions will be left behind someday. It is likely that if we do bring anything with us to the next life, it will be our spiritual assets.
For some reason, this is hard for most of us to accept. We are often in denial of the fact that we will die, because for many of us, the reality of mortality makes our priorities look silly.
The collection of material wealth, the advancement of careers and the improvement of our homes seems exciting, and we want to place these things high on our priority list. We identify ourselves and our personal value with these things.
Like our bodies, these things are all temporary. But, we are not. Our existence as spiritual souls is unchanging and permanent. No temporary material items or earthly accomplishments can define who we are. We are a part of something much greater than this planet can offer.
Whether or not you hold a belief in soul permanence or “after life”, when this life nears its end, fond memories of love and joy will probably mean much more to us than memories of the car we owned or the new carpeting we had installed several years back. And, the most powerful legacy we will leave behind is how we inspire others.
Consider your priorities in light of your mortality. Knowing with absolute certainty that your body will die someday, what is really important to you?