This is a reflection on how a reminder of death can inspire urgency to live life now versus later.
This week, my parents have been visiting me in New York. It’s their first visit since I’ve moved here and it has been nice to have them around. We have enjoyed nice meals together at fun restaurants around the city, they have completely taken over my apartment (and fixed all of these things I didn’t even know needed fixing) and have already started planning their next visit down.
And then today, the energy for all of us took a 180 turn.
We have relatives who live nearby in Staten Island and a few days ago, my uncle was moved into hospice care. He’s 85 years old and has lived a life rich in meaning and purpose. A real pioneer in the family, he moved from India to the US 50 years ago, with absolutely nothing. Building a life that fairy tales are made of, his generosity and kindness has been felt by our family and across their entire community.
Today we went to go see him and it was the closest to death I’ve ever been.
My uncle is resting in a small room on the lower level of their home. It’s quiet and small, without many objects. A small flower vase, a couch and a few chairs. The sliding door to the backyard is open. We hear the birds chirping, feel the cool fall air through the screen door and see the sun shining brightly on all of us. It feels like a waiting room, between this world and some other, and inspired a short poem for me…
--- With your boarding pass in hand You made it through security And are now waiting at the gate This is your final flight It will be time to board soon We will miss you Bon voyage ---
This flight my uncle is about to take does not have first class, business class or economy class. He will take without any material belongings. A humbling thought on what’s important in life.
Although I’ve meditated, journaled, read about and discussed the topic of death at length many times over the past few years, today was different. Feeling, touching and hearing death up close, both through my uncle and my relatives, took a concept I have only understood intellectually and made it real. Seeing my parents (who are spring chickens compared to my uncle, in age) express their emotions deepened my understanding of immortality.
This evening, I noticed a slight shift inside of me. An urgency about life.
I’ve experienced many timelines in life. Projects back when I was in school, a calendar quarter in business or any week, day or hour. Timelines create a sense of urgency that in turn forces clarity and focus. It becomes easy for me to decide what’s in and out.
This evening I signed up to do a yoga teacher training course (that starts next weekend). It’s a big commitment, 200 hours spread out over the next 9 months. I had decided long ago that I would at some point do the training, always thinking “later”. Later was conditional. Conditional on me making more time. Conditional on feeling more confident in my own practice first.
Today was a reminder for me that life does not wait. If something is important to me, that is enough reason to make it an unconditional priority. To do it now versus some later.
As you are reading this, I imagine one thing that’s important to you has probably already surfaced in your mind. And if not, take a moment to reflect right now on it.
I have a timeline on life. We all do.