How I learned to laugh at death

My business partner came into the office laughing last week, when I asked why; he explained that when he walked into a client’s office, the first words the client said were; “You know, we’re all gonna die.” What a way to say hello.

This year has been a difficult one in the death department. I’m sure it’s been tough for most people, as we get older, we’re more likely to lose loved ones. In the last eight months, I’ve lost six people, two of which I was extremely close with. Reflecting after those deaths, I realized that I didn’t know how to grieve properly and avoided the topic altogether, so I made an effort to understand death better since it is the most inevitable part of life.

Looking back, I was surprised on how “grieving” affected my mood, as it was the first time I lost a friend that was close to me in age. I understand we’re going to be sad after a death, but I was sobbing uncontrollably in the shower while thinking about dinner and not the loss. Maybe subconsciously I was sad, but burying it there while baking some haddock was on the forefront.

The second reflection was the choice that we face whether this inevitability was better, now that he didn’t have to suffer versus the selfishness of having him in my life. I’m relieved that he didn’t have to suffer much longer, and while I would rather have him here, I can go on knowing he lived a fantastic life and left a lasting effect on people.

The third reflection was my own mortality. I needed to learn how to look at death and have a good discussion about it without having a panic attack. When I was a kid, I would sit there and think about death, then get freaked out because my brain couldn’t comprehend eternity and the questions surrounding it. It would sometimes happen as an adult when I was battling anxiety because I felt I was killing myself through alcohol abuse and didn’t want to die yet. Once I gave up being an alcoholic, the death freak outs ended.

Honestly, you need to look death and laugh. Why get crazy, it’s inevitable, we’re all going to die one day. I met a woman the other day while having lunch and I overheard her saying it was her birthday. When I asked her how old, I expected 75–80, but she said 90! I was astounded because she looked great, while eating her chicken parm over ziti. She struck me with a line, “I don’t want to see 100.” When I asked why, she said, “Meh, I don’t know how well I’ll get around by then, plus I’ve lived one hell of a life.” No kidding. I appreciated her truth in jest, but the key is that she knows she lived “one hell of a life” so she has no qualms about dying tomorrow.

I think what scares us is dying without living a fulfilling life, we take our daily lives for granted without any thought of our own mortality, and when we are faced with those thoughts, we shit ourselves because who wants to drop dead at 40 without any kids or seeing the world? It should make us want to be better people every day and not take anything for granted because eventually it will be gone.