Category Archives: death

The Relationship that Keeps on Giving

by Barnes Boffey, Ed.; Director of Training, Aloha Foundation… www.alohafoundation.org

My relationship with death has been most interesting in the fact that is has uncovered one of the great paradoxes of life: the more you think about dying, the more you think about living. Death is what gives life its significance. If we lived forever, we would never have to answer the important questions about “What do we want our life to mean?” Or “Am I proud of the person I am becoming?” or “Am I living the life I want to live or have I copped out and given into fear and inertia?” The fact that we are going to die is the great motivator of these questions.

I remember one question that was asked of me was, “If you knew you were going to die in a week, who would you call, what would you say, and what are you waiting for?” That question incited several phone calls, mostly to make sure that certain people knew I loved and appreciated them, and also persuaded me to keep that list current in case anything happened?

canstockphoto14643549Thinking about dying helped me realize the importance of my saying “I love you” as the last words my wife and kids heard from me every day before I left for work. I had decided that if something happened to me that day, I wanted to make sure that my kids could say that the last words they heard from their father were “I love you,” not something like “Make sure to clean up your room” or “Adam, didn’t I tell you to get your damn bike out of the driveway?” My looking at my own death helped me make that decision.

My partnership with death has been a motivator in my creating a notebook which sits on my desk and is entitled, ”The Journey Continues: When I Die” which contains everything my kids would need to make sense of my estate if I died suddenly. Many people make books like these in the very last years of their life (although many think they will get to it and never do). I have had that book ready for my for 20 years; I count it as a gift to them that if I had died unexpectedly, that they would have some reasonable tasks to perform rather than the ungodly mess that many people leave to their kids.

Death is a friend who keeps asking, “Ok, what do you really want to do and when are you going to do it? Death is a friend who keeps us honest. Death is the final recovery from the great American addiction: “Just keeping doing what you’re doing; you can get away with it!” With Death, we can’t get away with it.

Many years ago I decided I wanted Death to be my friend rather than my enemy or adversary. I can honestly say that nothing in my life has ever been made worse by that decision, and that overall, my life has been much richer and more significant because of that relationship. We all have that choice.

“If you were sure something important, significant and life-changing were going to happen to you in the future, would you want to know more about how you might have it become an opportunity rather than a disaster?”

“If you knew you were going to die in a week, who would you call, what would you say, and what are you waiting for?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Crucial Relationship

by Barnes Boffey, Ed.; Director of Training, Aloha Foundation (www.alohafoundation.org)

When I was 26 years old, I began an intentional relationship which has been one of the most important I have ever had. It gets more significant every day. I was teaching a college class and the issue of death came up. I decided to create a short thoughtful experience for my students, so I asked them to write down the answer to the question, “How do you feel about death?” on an index card.  On the other side I asked them to answer the question: “How would you like to feel about death?”

My answer to the second question was  “I’d like to be as unafraid of where I am going after my death as I am of where I came from before my birth.” I was actually quite happy with my answer, but the more profound thing that happened at that moment was that I realized at a deeper level that I should start interacting with the thoughts and emotions and realities of death quite early in my life, for as the saying goes, “There are only two sure things in life, Death and Taxes.

Over the years I have gotten a wide variety of reactions to my desire to incorporate my relationship with death into my everyday life, but now that I am 70, I am so very grateful that I did. I am well ahead of so many people my age who have been pushing this relationship away for years.  I feel like my relationship with death has gone through the ups and downs of any long term relationship. I have been angry, sad, scared, denying, accepting and serene. My long-term relationship with death has given me the opportunity to work out many of my fears and questions, some which take years to resolve, and I am left at this time of my life with a sense of serenity and acceptance which I know could not have been created in a short-term last minute relationship.

I have envisioned my own death, I have written several obituaries as though I had died in that particular year, and I have  imagined my own memorial service (who will come? who will stay? who will I be glad is there? who will I wish had stayed home? What will be said? What would I like to be said?). I have talked with my children about my death until they are much more easy talking about it, and I have asked others what their thoughts are about probably the most important issue of our lives over 70, the process of aging and death.

 

Imagine the edge you would have if you took any of life’s issues and explored it thoughtfully and emotionally for 45 years. This is no different, it just involves a subject most people are unwilling to talk about: it America’s great taboo. The results of my relationship with death over the year are reaping great rewards in this time of my life, but it has also been a blessing all along the way.