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How Death Reminds Us to Live Deeply



 

Experiencing death helps us savor life more.

 

But it’s still a punch to the gut.

 

We recently had to put our sweet dog Sugar down. My teenage daughter and I held him (yes, he was a boy named Sugar) tightly at the vet’s office while he slipped away. We buried our faces deep into his fur, breathing the scent of him in, trying to memorize it to carry it home with us.

 

We sobbed so hard we shook and groaned. We kissed him and told him to have fun and prayed to God to not let him be scared or lonely. We thanked him for letting us love him and told him how grateful we were we found him all those years ago as a rescue dog.

 

The moment was sacred, as though the room was full of answers and knowledge that transcends our humanity. Life reveals itself to you in those final moments. You see and feel with your entire soul what is important. The answers are finally uncovered because we take the time to sit with it and feel it. We finally don’t have any other choice but to face it.

 

At the end of life, we see with complete clarity that the tiny moments were the ones that held the most weight. The moments that were so silly and small but have single-handedly etched themselves on your heart. Love and laughter are at the center of everything that makes life meaningful, and everything else is far away from your mind when the end is near.

 

As we held Sugar, we talked about the first day we met him at the pound and how he came barreling out of the cage and into my daughter’s arms. His presence for the last nine years was a time marker for her childhood, leading her from a giggling small girl to a gorgeous teenager who so bravely held Sugar in her arms, letting him find peace and comfort while the tears rolled down her face and onto my legs, and her shoulders shook with each sob.

 

Life is so simple, yet we complicate it with distractions and getting tempted by the wrong things. The most important thing is time. Time well spent. Time with family and friends and spreading love to others. That is all you think about when you watch someone exit. Not social media. Not how much money you made. It is all about the simplicity of the heart and wondering if you did enough to show your love.

 

This news equals freedom. Freedom to focus on what is proven to be important when we reach the end. Freedom to not chase money or things that numb us. Freedom to find ways each day to make sure those around us know they’re special, goofy, and amazing.

 

So today I’m going to keep making sure I live with this mindset every day. It doesn’t mean I can never get distracted or be tempted by things that I won’t remember at the end of my life, but I do want to dig in harder to feel life and experience it all. This means connecting more with people and putting in the work required to have a life of meaning.

 

It means:

 

Having people over for dinner more often.

Calling my parents more.

Finding joy in work and chores instead of complaining.

Putting nature before Netflix, even when it’s cold.

Playing board games instead of letting my kids zone out on Tick Tock.

Playing the ukulele more.

 

Doing the hard work of building relationships, so when people do leave this earth, it hurts so bad that your body shakes from sobbing. That means you know you did it right.

 

After Sugar had passed, we stayed in the room for several more minutes, processing the fact that he was truly gone. I had watched my daughter go from a dog owner who makes up silly nicknames and snuggles every night with him to now being a mature woman who put her comfort aside to make sure she could witness a very important step, even though it took all her strength and courage.

 

Before we left the room, she exhaled and asked, “Can I smell his paws one last time?”

 

I know, it’s “just a dog.” People endure human loved ones slipping away to death every day, and I know I’ll have to face that enormity one day. For now, this witnessing of death firsthand is my renewed internal compass. I’m tuned into the truth death whispered in my ear that day to make more time and space for the smallest of moments that carry the most weight of all at the end.

 

 

 

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