112 – Dealing With Death

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DEALING WITH DEATH…

Thank you for sharing my journey, thank you for joining me on my personal path of being a better man today than I was yesterday. 

I’m just like you;  I’m a guy who wants to improve, to be a little better man each day.  I’ve been on this path of improvement for awhile, and this podcast gives me an opportunity to share my experiences and insights with you.  It allows me to pass along the things I have learned and the observations I have made. 

It is not required that you agree with everything I say either…even if you don’t agree, you may still be prompted to formulate your own ideas about things, and decide how you want to live, what kind of man you want to be…and thats the really important part.

It should come as no surprise, that things that happen in my life right now will have some influence on the content of this show.  That is the case with this episode.

Over the weekend I got the news that My Uncle passed away.  He was my Mother’s baby brother.  He was perhaps the toughest man I ever knew, A brilliant mechanic, a loving father, husband and brother.  He also had his faults as we all do, but his laughter will be missed.  So right now my entire family is dealing with this fact.  I want to be very clear that I’m not telling you this for sympathy or anything, I don’t need your condolences.  It did however cause me to ponder the many ways in which people, men specifically, deal with death.

I handle death differently than most people I know.  Many people, especially in our western culture really try to avoid the topic of death at all costs…they consider it a morbid, taboo topic.  As though it is something inherently bad.  That makes it difficult to have conversations about death in general, and I think that’s unfortunate.

I never really understood this myself.  People seem to focus only on the finality of death, on their own loss.  They act as though every single death is a tragedy. While I see death as merely another aspect of life, an inevitability that we all must deal with at one time or another.  To me its a completely natural thing that happens, just like being born.

Every single person we know, every body…will be dead one day, including you and me.  We can’t avoid it.  When I watch an old movie I think about the fact that every single person on the screen is dead now.  Every winter the leaves on the trees die, every creature that walks, swims or crawls will die and be replaced by the next generation…it really is, a part of life.  So doesn’t it make sense to prepare ourselves to handle it in the best way that we can?

I personally had a problem with death when I was a kid.  Around 7 or 8 I had a few elderly relatives die and I went to some funerals.  When I was 8 my beloved dog Lady died tragically.  I overheard from adults that before me there was was a child born in my family who was still born, an older sister I never got to know.  All of these things crashed down on my little brain, and In trying to understand and process it, I went a little crazy.

In trying to understand death, I became obsessed with it, and incredibly fearful of it.  Every night when I went to bed I truly believed I was going to die during the night.  I stopped telling my parents goodnight when I went to bed and instead would tell them a heartfelt goodbye, as though I would never see them again.

It affected my behavior.  I was afraid to go to sleep each night.  And when I woke up each morning I was so relieved and joyful that I had been granted one more day to live. 

My parents eventually noticed that something weird was going on with me.  One day my dad took me aside and had a talk with me about death.  I don’t remember what he told me…but I remember that whatever it was fixed my problem, I wasn’t afraid of death anymore.  I was free once again to live my life as a normal child.

Whatever magic words my father imparted to me that day, even though I can’t remember what they were, forever altered the way I dealt with death.  It also seemed to make me a student of death, or more specifically, a student of how other people deal with it. 

Many people act as though dying is the worst thing that can happen to you.  I disagree, I think there are many things worse than death…like not living well, like not tending to ones legacy in life, like wasting ones talents and gifts or falling far short of your potential during this small window of time that we have on earth.  To me, these things are much more tragic than the act of dying.

We all experience loss when someone dies.  My mother died almost four years ago and I miss her terribly, I miss not being able to see her and talk with her.  I was sad for myself when she died but I was very happy for her, because she was free of the pain and discomfort of life.  It’s natural to be sad and grieve the loss, and it’s important to allow ourself the opportunity to do that.

In all my experience there is something I have noticed over and over again and this is the main thing I want to talk about.  It seems the people who are most adversely affected by the death of other people, are the people who have the most regrets.

What I mean is, people too often pass leaving behind loved ones who did not say the things that were on their heart.  The people still living are riddled with guilt because of a fight they had, a grudge they held, or just regret that they didn’t express often enough how they felt about the person who died, or what they meant to them.

It is truly a sad thing.  After someone dies its impossible to tell them what they meant to you.  It’s impossible to reconcile your differences or make amends for things that went wrong.  I think this is one reason people have such disdain for death…because they are so often left to live in guilt for things un done, or un said.

The good news is of course, that it doesn’t have to be that way.  We all have the same opportunity right now, today, to make sure all the people you care about know how you feel about them.  We all have the exact same opportunity to let go of silly differences and squabbles  that come between us.  Some of you will…and some of you won’t, those of you who do will be better off. 

I also feel that as a man we have another responsibility.  When someone dies and it sends a shudder through the fabric of our family…it’s helpful if there is someone there who is able to be strong.  It is helpful if there is someone who can be a rock for the other people we care about, who are still alive and are grieving.

I personally believe that is a role a man should fill.  Of course women are capable of it too and I have seen many do it, but to me it seems like the more natural role of a man to be a source of calm strength and stability at a time when everyone around them is at their weakest.  It is the ultimate opportunity to share our strength with the people we love.

It is difficult, if not impossible to fill that role if you yourself are dealing with guilt and regret over someones passing.

Likewise, when I die I want it to be as easy as possible for the people who love me…so it is also my responsibility to make sure that no body is going to wonder how I felt about them.  I don’t want to leave anyone with any guilt over my relationship with them.

This episode might be uncomfortable for some of you.  People avoid thinking about death or talking about death and then, when it comes, you are ill-prepared for it.  If this topic makes you uncomfortable then I especially urge you try thinking about death another way…because it will visit your life eventually, and part of being a man is being prepared for such things.  If this topic makes you uncomfortable it could be a red flag that needs your attention.

I ponder death almost daily, not just my own but the death of others as well.  I evaluate the status of my relationships and try to make sure that everyone that I love, knows how I feel.  I encourage everyone listening to do the same, because it makes a real difference when the time comes.

Life was not designed to be fair.  It is often unkind and dirty and painful.  As men I think we should embrace these facts of life, think about them and prepare for them, so that we can deal with them in the best way we can, and be the best help for the other people in our life.  Thats what makes the most sense to me.

I’m going to stop there for today, as usual I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode so head click on CONTACT ALF and write me a letter.  I want to give a shout out to my new Pateron Patrons; Jake, Calen and Lyndsay…thank you so much for your support of the show, it means a lot.  If you want to become a Patron go to PATREON.COM , watch the video and see what you think.

Thanks for listening today guys.  Now head out into the world knowing that tomorrow is not promised to anyone.  We have today to make a difference, and every time we seize that opportunity we become a better man today than we were yesterday.

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