The Death Watch

death watchI recall a promise made to myself in childhood ignorance – I will not become a bitter adult.’  It was clear to me that adulthood had the potential to suck the fun out of life.  Heavy responsibilities weighed down the big people.  They seemed to smile less and complain more.  Cynicism leaked from their pores as a result of letting life’s ugliness seep in.

As I walked into the wake for a neighbor who committed suicide, I felt myself becoming that bitter adult.  This was not the first time I’d been to a wake of this sort, but no matter the circumstances, death has a way of interrupting a harmonious , if not ignorant, mindset.

In coping with this loss, I cling to the wisdom that the only real suffering comes from believing that things should be different.  ‘Resist nothing,’ say the experts, because resisting only prolongs misery.  Trying to manipulate life is like trying to sculpt concrete with your hands.  Hard as we try, we’ll never crack the code with human reason.  Life will continue to astonish us no matter how much of it we’ve experienced. And it will end when it wants to.

Enter the ‘Death Watch’ – an actual device that bases the date of your death on a series of medical questions in the hope of inspiring people to make the most of their remaining time.  The watch shows the amount of time you are estimated to have left in years, months, days, hours, minutes and seconds. Yikes!

In theory, I see how it could be valuable to know how much time one has left on earth.  I had my own death countdown experience that yielded a wealth of insight.  But being cognizant at every moment of the impermanence of one’s existence is no picnic.  This is territory that should be tread-on carefully.  That being said, could it change the world for the better?  One of the first reactions I heard when my neighbor died was, “I should have been nicer to him.”  Would we treat people better if we knew the end – ours or theirs – was near?

Death is a reminder.  It screams so loudly that we have no choice but to listen.  Every passing is an opportunity to delve deeper into this wild existence.  It is a chance to bear witness.  What I witnessed this week was a controversial life and death.  No two opinions or reactions about this man were alike.  Yet still there is a common thread – Every Life Is Meaningful.  Not one person has more right to be on earth than another.  Each life has its place and its perfect timeline, whether we agree with it or not.

Perhaps that timeline is better marked by a Now Watch instead of a Death Watch.


When focused on the Now, we see that there are no problems.  Problems only exist in the past (coulda, shoulda, woulda) or in the future (I hope not…I fear that….)  Staying present to each moment as it unfolds allows us to bring our whole selves to any situation, thereby warding off regret and worry.

I doubt I’ll ever make friends with Death, it scares me so.  But I respect it and am learning to trust it, because I know that it possesses a wisdom beyond my understanding.  My name is on Death’s calendar along with everyone else’s and I don’t want to know where.  For now, I’d like to live in blissful ignorance, enjoying life whilst Death knocks on someone else’s door.

%d bloggers like this: