We don’t talk about aging or death much in this country, given that the former is going to happen to us if we’re lucky and the latter to all of us regardless of our “luck” status. Indeed, in the United States, we try to hide all evidence of both. And while aging is a worthy topic, I’m focusing my post today on death.
Americans Don’t Die
No, we pass (away). Our pets cross the rainbow bridge. We “lose” people. But rarely do we die. Why is that? Why has death become so hidden (or sanitized)? Why have we become afraid of just TALKING about death?
A sad statistic: Approximately 75% of Americans would like to die at home; however, only 25% of them do. Many die intubated, on ventilators, in sterile hospital rooms away from loved ones, no longer living but rather merely existing. I ask you—is this how you really want to go? Is that your vision, your dream for your life’s end? And those reasonably conscious often focus their lives’ conclusions in rumination for a life only partially lived. Surely discussing death—our fears about it (most of us have them), our regrets (most of us have them as well), and our hopes for a life of meaning (again most of us have these too)—could lead to us embracing the life that remains. Facing death opens us to recognizing the value of the time we have and awakens in us an impetus to live according to our own values1.
Discussing Death over Dinner
Let’s Have Dinner and Talk About Death is a website for a movement to discuss death and take off the veil we’ve placed over it. You invite guests for a meal with the intention of discussing death. The movement suggests some homework as well (somethings to read, watch, and listen to). While I may forego the homework part of it, I find the idea of such a dinner not only philosophically interesting, but potentially liberating. So, I’m now publicly committing to hosting one such event by January 1, 2018. Surely acknowledging the existence of death will allow us to embrace the potentials we all have of more fulfilling and purposeful lives, regardless of our religious or philosophical beliefs.
1 If you haven’t yet defined your most important values, I suggest that you actually do make the time for this. Think about what’s important to you—don’t just list what you think you’re supposed to value to impress someone else.