Revel in the Fading: Reflections on How to Live and How to Die

By Adam J. Pearson

No one has ever experienced either their own death or anyone else’s. Death is not an event in life; it is not an experience that a person can have. When death is here, nothing can be experienced; while we can still have experiences, death has not yet come. Dying, on the other hand, is something that all experience, whether in the flash of a moment of falling from a 30-story building, or in the long, protracted grind of terminal illness.

In fact, living is also dying. Life fuels death and dead organisms become the food that sustains the living.

While we live, entropy increases; order breaks down and chaos multiplies. We practice dying while we practice living and practice living while we practice dying. Our task is this: to ring and squeeze as much out of our fleeting lives as we possibly can, to make every moment count, to touch, taste, see, hear, smell, and feel everything on as deep a level as we possibly can. To truly live even as our bodies weave their slow paths towards their final destination beyond life, to dance the dance of life while our cells wind their crumbling waltzes towards death, that is our challenge.

To make each moment into both meditation and celebration is our constant goal and aspiration. For death is our faithful companion on the journey of life, our dark copilot, and whether we deny her or embrace her, she rides on with us just the same.  Therefore, I say leave death to its own time and embrace life while it lasts.  Let the final moment be final, not endlessly previewed in the middle of the show.  Taste all things as a prisoner on death row tastes his final meal before his unavoidable execution.

When you do anything at all, remind yourself: “this may be the last time I do it, so let me do it as mindfully and capably as I can, as if it were the final signature on the fading work of art that is my life…” In this way, you will beautify your life and your life will beautify you; there will be beauty in the fading and fading in the beauty.  This is the graceful way of the sage, to acknowledge the fading and revel in it all the same.


One thought on “Revel in the Fading: Reflections on How to Live and How to Die

  1. If you look closely enough at living, you’ll see that it’s also dying. If you look closely enough at dying, you’ll see that it’s also living. You live your death at every moment and your last act of life is your death. The apparently two are so intimately interwoven and enmeshed in one another that they cannot be separated. Therefore, I say that if you love your life, love also your death, and if you love your death, love also your life.

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