-From Age 17 to 71
By: Jeffrey Markel
My End of Life Training from Age 17 to 71
On my 71st birthday, I was struck by how the tenor of the birthday calls have changed. Many of my contemporaries are struggling with health challenges. Two friends have a terminal diagnosis and others have cancer or other significant issues. My depth of compassion is being called upon more frequently.
I am more than willing to be there for my loved ones in their darkest hours. I also know that I want to live my life with grace and optimism. The need for happiness, and its partner, laughter, must be fulfilled.
Consciously Choosing to Occupy Life
I am fortunate to have strong bonds with many close friends who are thirty and forty years younger than me. Infectious enthusiasm and vitality are their trademarks so mortality and health are not significant parts of the conversation.
I know my age is a factor in how I live my life, and because I enjoy good health, it isn't the major factor. Being 71 with all the experience I have gained is wonderful. I wouldn't trade it for any other time in my life. I don't want to die yet and I know every moment brings me closer to death. It will come soon enough.
So what is next in fulfilling the time I have left? How do I stay ripe with purpose and cultivate happiness?
Renewing My Purpose in Life
For me the answer includes renewal. I have begun a year long trip around the world. It is an opportunity for me to continue answering the questions of who am I and why am I here? I find it easier to lean into these questions by traveling extensively every 10 years. It gives me the opportunity to leave my expectations and the expectations of others behind.
Travel helps me bring alive the daily practice of living freshly, consciously. How can I die consciously if I have not lived consciously? Many of us don't see the light of what is truly important until the end is near.
What the Death of a Loved One Has Taught Me
My father's life and his untimely death, did not include time to consider conscious living in the way that we use that term today. His consciousness was primarily geared toward providing financially for his family. Although honorable, this extreme narrowness of focus contributed mightily to his early death.
I am extremely fortunate to have the time and luxury to consider what constitutes a conscious life and a conscious death. That consideration includes being the best version of myself. It is an ideal and a worthy one. This continual work in progress with steps forward and back, is served by authors, teachers and organizations in the consciousness field.
End of Life Training at the Conscious Dying Institute
I am fortunate to work with the staff at the Conscious Dying Institute founded by Tarron Estes. The training offered by CDI is a key component in the movement to change the way we experience dying in this culture.
The questions of how to live and die consciously are really broader social questions. Organizations like the Conscious Dying Institute are laying the groundwork to transform how we die in this culture from an overly medicalized death, to a passing full of meaning and grace.
In his 43 years, my father passed on his strong sense of what it meant to be a good son, father and member of a community. All this helped mold me into the man I am today, conscious of my roots and the responsibilities I have to myself and others. His sudden passing instilled in me the question of what is truly important in life.
When I stay conscious of where I came from, where I have chosen to be and where I still have to go, I understand that living and dying both serve me in a way for which I am grateful. For today I choose to live consciously, so I will be ready when it is time to.