How to Face the Final Curtain Call with Courage?
My girlfriend was diagnosed with breast cancer and had surgery six years ago. Doctors were satisfied with her treatments and gave her a positive prognosis. Yesterday, my girlfriend spoke to me after dinner. Her teary eyes gave away what she was going to tell me. She just found out that her cancer is back, with full force, spreading to her bones, liver, and lung.
What can one say to comfort a forty-eight-year-old mother and wife?
Words escaped me. But not for long. I committed to lift her up in prayers.
Today, as I reflect on my own mortality, Dr. Paul Wong‘s teaching comes in handy. No matter how unwelcome the subject of “death” is, it is part of the human reality. Dying is part of living. Instead of avoiding the topic, I’ve learned to adopt an attitude of acceptance to my own demise. Knowing the final curtain call is inevitable, why not live each moment fully with intention and vigor?
Tomorrow is not guaranteed.
Do I regret about the past, worry about the future, and allow regrets and worries to hijack my present?
NO. There is a better approach. Dr. Paul Wong’s Five Pathways to Death Acceptance provides a framework for easing the agony of our final exit. This framework also speak to my strategy for living life to the full. (To learn more about What Makes Life Worth Living, consider joining the Meaning Conference in Vancouver July 24 to 27, 2014) Here is what I’ve learned from Dr. Wong:
1) Live a life of self-transcendence
I am put to this world to experience humanity, enjoy the abundance that life has to offer, as well as to fulfill my responsibilities. Instead of focusing my energy in seeking merely personal gains, comfort, pleasure, etc., I choose to worship my Creator and strive to fulfill my purpose on this earth by enriching other people’s lives.
2) Validate your life as worthwhile and meaningful
Life is a mystery. There are things that cannot be explained to my satisfaction and comprehension. I need to have faith that in the bigger scheme somewhere in the unknown, order exists in spite of apparent chaos, righteousness prevails in spite of seeming injustice. Being human has inherent value. The sanctity of life in each person is a meaningful gift awaiting full exploration.
3) Have taken care of the unfinished business
Imagine going into a deserted house packed with unopened gifts. If I were the owner of the house, I would feel remorse not enjoying those gifts while I lived there. How does it feel like to see a pile of unfinished business at the end of our life journey? The unfinished business can be our unrealized dreams, unaccomplished goals, unspoken ambitions, and under-utilized talents. I made my decision to follow my passion and pursue things that matter to me the most. My action starts today, not tomorrow.
4) Connect with love ones
We are relational beings; we have the need to love and be loved. A sense of community, security and connectedness emerges when surrounded by family, friends and loved ones. I treasure those moments. I set aside time, put away distractions, enjoy their presence while with them.
5) Have faith in a blessed afterlife
Depending on our belief system, death can mean the end of doom, the pit of nothingness, the rise of avatar, or the beginning of heaven. I believe in heaven where there is no pain, suffering, or sorrow. Death marks the end of my physical existence on earth; my soul lives on. I will be among the angels singing praises day and night, in eternity.
Looking Down Memory Lane
Let’s fast forward to 2050. The ninety-year-old Joyce is lying peacefully in her deathbed. Breathing in and out reviewing every frame of her long memory strip with delight:
She did the best with the gifts that the Creator has generously endowed her with.
She experienced love as a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, and a great-grandmother.
She worked in professions that contributed to individual and organizational growth.
She lived her childhood dream and had the opportunity to stitch new dreams and fulfill them one by one.
Now, taking in her last breath, she says goodbye to her loved ones around her, blesses them, and steps gracefully into eternity uniting with her heavenly Father.