One of the highlights of my life was being in the room with my father and holding his hand when he took his last breath. It was incredibly sad, but at the same time deeply intimate, personal and beautiful. He was there when I came into the world, and I got to be there when he left. And, by facing death in a direct way, we can learn so much about life and ourselves, as I did when my dad died when I was 27 years old. As one of my mentors said to me years ago, "Mike, if you live your life each day more aware of your own death, you will live very differently." This is true for all of us.
There are so many beautiful lessons that death teaches us, even in the midst of the pain, loss, confusion, anger and fear. When we're willing to embrace death and remember that everyone and everything in physical form will eventually die, we're reminded to:
- Appreciate ourselves, each other and life—right now
- Let go of our attachment to other people's opinions, our obsession with appearances and our self-consciousness about many aspects of our lives
- Connect to others in a deep, profound, intimate and vulnerable way
- Speak up, go for what we truly want and live in the present moment
- Be grateful for what we have and for life as it is, not someday when things work out perfectly (which never happens anyway)
As we consider these and other questions about death, it's obvious that the answers aren't simple and easy...neither is life. However, when we're willing to engage, embrace and deal with death (and life) with a true sense of empathy, passion and authenticity, we're able to not only make it, but to actually learn, grow and thrive—regardless of the circumstances and even in the face of death.
How to help a loved one who's mourning
Mike Robbins is a best-selling author, sought-after motivational keynote speaker and personal growth expert who works with people and groups of all kinds. Robbins is the author of the best-selling books Focus on the Good Stuff and Be Yourself: Everyone Else Is Already Taken. He and his work have been featured on ABC News, in Forbes, Ladies Home Journal, Self and many others.