Tuesday, September 16, 2008

happy thoughts

I am not the kind of guy that talks much about my actual job (I like to keep it separate from my blog), but today I was on a trip with an admission nurse visiting a man that was just coming under the care of hospice (I work with chaplains and volunteers). As I sat with the man and his wife my mind wandered, as it does a lot.

It wandered, as it does for anyone working in hospice, to my own mortality, thinking directly about my own future demise... thinking of how I will handle it if I (one day) come into hospice care, how I will react when the doctor tells me I am incurable (if I go out that way), how I will say goodbye to those around me, how I will reconcile those feelings, how I will bargain with God and how I will think about my kids, my regrets and my successes.

It can be quite overwhelming to think about death as much as one does when surrounded by death daily (whose very salary is funded by it). However, I thought about how little Americans think about death, how everything in our consumeristic society conspires to help us avoid the subject.. how little we want to think about it. You would think it would make us happy. But, it does not.

According to some wise people, thinking about our death will make us happier in the long run. Could it be that contemplating our own mortality and eventual demise, allows us to live more fully in the present and become a bit happier?*

Sounds nuts, huh? Just to us Americans. A book I read a few months ago discusses this, along with many subjects. It is called The Geography of Bliss. I recommend it.. along with contemplating your own mortality today.

* I think there are many reasons we, as a people, are not happier. But, I will just focus on this today.


Mike said...

I hope you'll write more about this, as long as it doesn't negatively affect your job situation. Because I think you're really on to something here with facing our own mortality, and I'd benefit from hearing more.

In fact, just last night I was raving about another author who has really encouraged me in this direction, to the frozen stares and barely concealed horror of my conversation partners. But it's true-- thinking about death and our own death brings peace, and purpose and yes, even happiness.

Oh, btw, the author I was referencing is poet and funeral director Thomas Lynch. I'm happy to send you some of his (gently used) books if death's remunerative compensation has not equalled death's spiritual compensation for you as of yet. ;-)

Mary said...

American denial of death and insistence on the rewards of afterlife for the "righteous" have led to choices which actually denigrate the present life (especially lives not our own).

Steven Levine has a wonderful little book, A YEAR TO LIVE, which I think would be a good companion to all, but especially to hospice workers..

Many blessings and thank you for your ongoing blog. I check in at least a couple of times a week. Mimi Reid