Day 21: Facing your own mortality

Today was class day! It is always my favorite day for two reasons: air conditioning and Dr. Rajagopal. We had an 8 hour course on spirituality. It was wonderful to contemplate the meaning of life with people from several different countries. I love the days where you can truly just sit back and evaluate your existence, which we so often forget to do. We also talked about our own mortality as physicians in order to understand how patients come to terms with their mortality. I’ve realized that you can’t truly live unless you accept your own mortality. You will inevitably come to a point where you take your last bite of food, your last sip of water, your last view of the world from human eyes, your last breath, and your last heartbeat. Death is inevitable. Have you ever thought about what it would look like or what it would feel like? I would consider myself lucky that I have the privilege to be part of many people’s end-of-life moments. I’ve become comfortable with the process (or as comfortable as you could try to be) and as a result have thought about how I would want my end-of-life moment to be. Every conversation I have with someone who is dying is always very similar; they always mourn their own death. It seems weird to think about it that way, but they all grieve over the same thing. Over 90% will first name an experience that they wish they had had.  This is what life boils down to. They never mention the newest BMW, the latest Michael Khors purse, or the latest iphone they didn’t get to have. It is always, “I wish I had more time to do xyz.” Sometimes that means seeing their daughter get married, going to a baseball game, walk along a childhood creek one last time, see the summer concert festival, or see their granddaughter be born (all real requests I’ve heard). It finally occurred to me that life is measured in moments. When I talk to dying patients who say they are at peace, they almost always say that they’ve had a good life. I finally understand what they mean. It isn’t that they had a big house, a pinterest-worthy pantry, or the CEO job. It is because they packed experiences into their life until they were satisfied. They made the most of each little moment life gave them (and the big moments). Because of this, instead of going through life absent mindedly, I have learned to concentrate as many experiences into each day. There are so many moments that could happen each day if we let them. Maybe you will make some yummy tea, maybe you’ll organize your kitchen, maybe you’ll call up an old friend for lunch, or maybe you’ll finally do that Europe trip that you’ve been putting off for years. It is our own responsibility to make the most of the days we are given. I don’t want to mourn all the things I didn’t experience on my death bed. I want to know that I experienced all that my heart desired each day of my life.

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