Death Lessons: What You Can Learn When Someone Dies

Where I write about the lessons I learned from the death of a distant uncle.

Seventy years from now more than likely you will be dead.

Don’t worry: So will I.

Some of us will die earlier than others [before we reach fifty].

Some will live longer [well after we turn ninety].

See, as humans, we all share this in common–death.

But we also share something else: When we are dead all of the things in our head–our thoughts, dreams, ideas, feelings–will be gone from this earth…

Lost forever to this world. And the people we leave behind.

Why the Morbid Mood?

Yesterday I learned about the death of a distant uncle. A man who I hadn’t seen in twenty years, but for good reasons meant a lot to me.

During a brief time of vulnerability, he took me, my mother and sister into his fold. But during that brief time he taught me how to work hard, hunt and think.

He even gave me a beautiful rifle.

Unfortunately, after a short period of time we parted ways and I never spoke to him again.

I regret that.

And so this morning I found myself a bit tired, wistful and nostalgic. A wee bit indifferent to the world but profoundly interested in hugging my children and embracing my wife.

It’s a classic introvert defense to news heavy on the death of people close to you.

Furthermore, streaming through my thoughts this whole time is an acute sense of our mortality–and the selfishness of living in one’s own head…an introvert’s favorite place to be.

12 Lessons We Can Learn from the Death of a Loved One

So in order to combat that, here are some reflections–commands, really–on how to indulge in the little time we have left in this world–whether you are an extrovert or introvert–and make the most of the time you have with your people.

It applies to us all. Enjoy.

Talk. Nurture deep conversations with meaningful people like your spouse, children, best friends and neighbors. Do this relentlessly.

Journal. Record your thoughts, feelings and ideas. Document tough questions. Sketch out your answers. The point: Be liberal so people can learn something about you when you die.

Pray. Nurture a deep, never-ending conversation with God. Pour out your soul to Him. Ask him for help. Plead with him to teach you how to be more like Christ.

Confess. Shed secret sin by rehearsing the gospel daily, pleading with God for forgiveness and asking an exclusive set of godly men and woman to hold you accountable.

Blog. Share your thoughts, feelings and ideas with a wider audience. Or keep it private and simply share it with family you are geographically separated from.

Contemplate. Think about your past. Evaluate your present. Plan your future. And once you contemplate, share it with others–in a conversation, on a blog or in your journal.

Write. Lubricate lines of communication with a regular letter or email. For times when you can’t pick up the phone or sit down in front of someone. Do this daily.

Slow Down. Resist invitations to do more. Simplify. Enjoy life. Enjoy your spouse. Your friends. Your children. Your home. Your car. The path through the woods. The lake. The clouds. The cross of Christ.

Create. Take those thoughts and ideas and give them life. Write songs. Sculpt statues. Paint portraits. Design cartoons. Build houses.

Play. Go sledding or fishing. Rock climbing or wind surfing. Teach your son to throw a ball. Twirl with your daughter in the den. Uncork a bottle of wine with your wife and watch her trounce you in a game of Scrabble.

Obey. Do when the Holy Spirit nudges. Don’t hesitate. Call that friend. Skip work and run away with your children to the beach. Visit that dying uncle. Share the gospel with a shop clerk.

Love. Grieve with the suffering. Laugh with the jubilant. Talk with the lonely. Listen to the gregarious. Give to the earthquake-shattered. Evangelize the hostile.

As you can probably tell, when I say indulge, I’m speaking about pouring yourself out for others. Giving away EVERYTHING in you to those you love AND to those you don’t love…

To those you know–and to those you don’t know. What you want is to say at the end of your life you held nothing back.

See, it’s worth forcing ourselves outside of our shelters [skulls, homes, churches, nations] and subduing the earth in Christ and for Christ.

Not only is it a biblical mandate, but it also provides for a rich, meaningful life. One that is perilously short.

Don’t waste it.

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