Late last night I read a post by one of my favorite bloggers, Andrew Sullivan, in which he linked to living will documents for all 50 states.
This was part of an ongoing discussion of his about how it would be wise if more of us gave some thought to living wills, as it would help reduce health care costs, among other things.
I clicked on the Wisconsin living will document and felt a bit overwhelmed while thinking about which instructions to choose. I quickly closed the browser window and went to bed with thoughts of persistent vegetative states dancing through my head.
Shortly after waking up this Good Friday morning I happened upon a poem by Mary Oliver:
When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
Later this morning I drove past a funeral procession that blocked traffic for a while. One of the cars had a license plate that said “TIK TOC.” How appropriate, I thought. Funeral processions are a reminder that life is tick tocking away. I recalled an afternoon when I was eight-years-old and sat down and contemplated death for the first time. I thought to myself then, “each day I’m one day closer to my death.” Tick tock. Death seemed so far away and I was more content to live in the present then.
The present is never our end. The past and present are our means, the future alone our end. Thus we never actually live, but hope to live, and since we are always planning to be happy, we are never actually so.
Actually living vs. hoping to live… As I pondered that while running on the treadmill this morning, it became clear that filling out a living will won’t be so hard after all.
And as Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen says in her book Kitchen Table Wisdom, “Human being is more of a verb than a noun.” Be-ing vs. being. “Be — and at the same time know the implication of non-being,” said the poet Rainer Maria Rilke. That makes the living will questions easier to answer too.
I’ll close with one more quote from Dr. Remen:
Death has been referred to as the great teacher. It may be the great healer as well…All life paths may be a movement toward the soul. In which case our death may be the final and most integrating of our life’s experiences.
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