Till Death Do Us Part: Why Preparing For The End Really Is Just Good Housekeeping

In a culture that often shies away from discussions about mortality, normalizing death can also provide a platform for important conversations.
In a culture that often shies away from discussions about mortality, normalizing death can also provide a platform for important conversations. iStockphoto

I am 41 years old. There were two life events that I had been planning since I was 35 years old. One was my 40th birthday and one was my chautha (memorial/wake) in case I died — whichever came first. Well, I turned 40 a year ago and I almost died a day before my 40th birthday. Clearly, I survived, but could not shake off the two very different reactions I got for both plans. The 40th celebration was met with obvious enthusiasm and positivity and every other reaction you can associate with euphoria and the chautha was met with immediate shutting down, avoidance and confused looks as to why am I planning something so morbid. While this idea might initially seem morbid or unsettling, it holds the potential to reshape our perspective on life, the ageing process, and our priorities.

My response was always that both events are a celebration of a life that I have lived. Neither has to be sad or morose. These reactions got me thinking that even as relatively younger adults in our 30s and 40s, we should be normalising talking about death and setting in motion measures and instructions for our post-death arrangements. Think about it, we spend our younger lives carefully planning everything for the future – careers, financial planning, relationships, family planning, and even our retirements, so why is there this stigma around death? We need to change the conversation and come out of this bubble of denial that all of us at some level have; that nothing is going to happen to us and that death is far away. 

To think this way is to be naïve and if the pandemic (and my accident) have taught us anything it is that death is closer than you think. The concept of normalizing death is not meant to induce fear or pessimism, but rather to remind us that it is the only thing that is definite in our lives, so why fear it and bury our heads in the sand? By acknowledging death as a natural part of life at a relatively young age, we can cultivate a deeper appreciation for the time we have and live more fully in the present. The day we stop fearing death, our whole perspective about living changes and we can stop sweating the small stuff. That is not to say that our lives are free of anxiety and problems, but what it does is help you manage your anxiety and maybe even provide some solutions to everyday issues.

By not fearing death I have seen myself redefine success and happiness. Instead of measuring our accomplishments solely by material gains, societal expectations and what car we drive, we can focus on experiences, relationships, and personal growth. This shift empowers us to pursue our passions and feed our souls and eventually embrace life's adventures without the burden of constant comparison or the pressure to achieve arbitrary goals. 

Critics of this idea might argue that focusing on death at a young age could lead to unnecessary anxiety and pessimism. However, the goal isn't to dwell on death but rather to integrate an awareness of it into our lives. Such awareness can inspire us to seek meaning and purpose, to mend broken relationships, and to live authentically and intentionally.

In a culture that often shies away from discussions about mortality, normalizing death can also provide a platform for important conversations. These discussions can revolve around end-of-life wishes, legacy planning, and the importance of open communication with family members. By confronting these topics earlier, we can alleviate the burden on our loved ones and ensure that our wishes are respected. Preplanning isn’t something many of us want to think about because it means we have to think about our own death. But, being prepared is just good housekeeping. You are never too young to create a funeral plan.

By accepting mortality as an integral part of our existence, we can redefine our priorities, foster stronger connections, and lead more fulfilling lives. Embracing the inevitability of death doesn't diminish the value of life; on the contrary, it enhances our appreciation for the present moment and encourages us to create lasting legacies that extend far beyond our years.

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