Don’t Look Away. These 5 things will happen to you too.

Seeing the Decline

I didn’t know if I’d get to see Bill at the hospital last Monday.

I went to see my friend Kay as she sat with her dad, Bill. She and I visited outside his room.

Then her dad needed something. Kay invited me inside his room, too. And I got to see Bill.

I saw how much he’d declined since I’d seen him a year ago at the baby shower for his granddaughter and great-grandson-to-be. Even then he looked more frail than the time before.

But on Monday, I sensed that aging and illness were piling up too quickly for him to fend off.

By Wednesday, I got the word . . . Bill died.

Death by Surprise

I was shocked.

But why does news of a death still take us by surprise? Still take away our own breath, even when we expected it?

We know every one of us will die one day. It’s inevitable. Something will happen and we’ll either stop breathing immediately or within days, months, years.

Yet we don’t want to think about death. It makes us sad.

But what if by looking away from death, we ultimately create more sadness?

5 Things for Everybody

The Buddhist tradition offers Five Remembrances that awaken us from denial and help us appreciate life more fully. They are compatible with my own Christian faith as well, along with other world philosophies too.

Here are five things that happen to all of us. The Five Remembrances are:

1. I am subject to aging. There is no way to avoid aging.

2. I am subject to ill health. There is no way to avoid illness.

3. I am going to die. There is no way to avoid death.

4. Everyone and everything that I love will change, and I will be separated from them.

5. My only true possessions are my actions, and I cannot escape their consequences.

At first glance, these five feel too negative. Who wants to think about these things?

But thinking about these things isn’t our real problem. The real problem arises when we try to never think about these things.

Pretending we’ll never die can be quite a burden.

Freedom is not found in denial or avoidance or distraction. Rather than depressing us, accepting these five things can help us live fuller lives now. It can help us prioritize loving God, loving others, and loving ourselves.

I don’t want to take life for granted. Even in hard seasons, I want to stay awake.

By remembering that life is full of change, I want to feel more appreciative of the good things I have now, to think more clearly about how things will change again, and to respond more kindly to those I’m here with.

Plus a 6th Thing to Remember . . .

We attended Bill’s funeral yesterday.

As we gathered with other friends and his family who loved him well, I was reminded of these Five Remembrances.

1. Bill aged. I am aging, too. So are you.

2. Bill got sick. I get sick, too. So do you.

3. Bill died. I will die, too. So will you.

4. Everything in Bill’s life has changed. Everything changes daily in my life, too. So in your life.

5. Memories of Bill’s actions will remain. My actions will live on, too. So will yours.

And if it’s not too presumptuous, I’ll add a 6th remembrance from my own beliefs:

6. Bill lives on in heaven. I can, too. So can you.

But in the meantime, as much as I’d like to stay fixated on the future where problems will cease and tears will fade, I don’t need to look away from what is happening here, now.

While my human nature longs to cling, to grasp, and to stop time, my spiritual nature reminds me that holding things loosely is the better way.

By releasing my tight grip on denying death, I open more space for appreciating life.


Share your thoughts in the comments.

These are some of my thoughts with my One Word 2022 RELEASE

I’m sharing at these linkups

45 thoughts on “Don’t Look Away. These 5 things will happen to you too.

  1. Lynn

    Sorry to hear of your friend’s passing, Lisa. Yes, holding things loosely, with the understanding death will come, helps us stay in gratitude of the present.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      I agree, Martha. I remember when my own parents were dying. It was tough to accept the reality that they were dying, but it was better for them and for us when we dealt with it head-on.

  2. blankAritha

    This is good tot read. Thank you for this life lesson about dead.

    The joy of the Lord is my strength – even when I feel weak or my circumstances are difficult. Even when I die. A safe harbor, in a tumultuous world.

  3. blankLynn D. Morrissey

    Lisa, I’m so sorry about your friend’s death. Death is hard. It’s inevitable, but not always expected, and not what God originally intended for mankind. I just lost a lifelong friend. She was a year older than I, and had some health issues, but no, I didn’t expect her passing, perhaps because she had just lost her husband but three months earlier. So her family reels w/ his death, hers, and his son’s (just 59) from another marriage–the son’s death just two weeks after the dad’s. Quite enough death for one little family, BUT we never know–yes, the what, but not the when or the how. I am reminded of many wise words from Ecclesiastes, and these: “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart” (Eccl. 7: 2, NIV). You’ve done that with this post–taken death to heart. Thank you for sharing the lessons you observed.
    xo
    Lynn

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Oh, Lynn. I’m sorry for the loss of your dear friend, and also sorry for the quick accumulation of losses that this family has endured. Wow. That’s indeed a lot of grief to come so heavy back to back. 🙁

      You’re right that we know the what, but rarely the when or how. I’m not sure if I would want to know it all up front even if I had the opportunity….

  4. blankSusan Nowell @ My Place to Yours

    My prayers are with Bill’s family and friends today as you grieve your loss. It’s definitely easier to cling than to hold things loosely, but God wants us to open our clinched fists, stretch out our fingers, and prepare to receive His blessings. I’ll practice that today thanks to your focusing words.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Thank you, Susan. I’m sure Kay will appreciate your prayers for her family. Her parents were together for 63 years, so Kay’s mom will miss Bill most of all. 🙁

  5. blank~ linda

    Dear Lisa, I am so sorry for the loss of Bill and for the sadness you and Kay feel right now. As I also read through those five things, I know them very well but do not talk about them as I have no one in my life right now who ‘wants’ to talk about them! That is weird and hard at times! My cat (who is not feeling well) is up on my lap right now and is a willing listener. So I talk…she listens which helps me. She gets loved on behind her ears and around her head! I needed to admit these things to God. I thank you, Lisa for reminding me of verbally admitting that I understand these things. That I may be ready to meet the Lord…but in His perfect timing.
    I lift up Bill’s family to the Lord.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      I’ve found it surprising at times with who can talk about these hard subjects and who can’t. It’s not always the people I predict in either camp. Personally, I’m grateful for those who are willing to talk it out. It’s helpful to me to speak about the elephant in the room (illness and aging and dying) versus ignoring it as if it’s not coming for each of us. It doesn’t have to be a depressing topic, but just a realistic one. I’m glad you at least have your cat to talk to about these matters! 🙂 She may be a better listener than any human. lol.

  6. blankjodie filogomo

    OMG, this is such a great message. I am truly sorry about Bill, but it’s absolutely true that no one gets out of this alive. Yet we don’t talk or accept it much, do we?
    I think it’s so helpful to be in the mindset that life will happen (including aging) and the more we concentrate on gratitude and accept that these things will happen, we will be happier and freer.
    Thanks for sharing this and I plan to share in my daily email tomorrow.
    XOXO
    Jodie
    http://www.jtouchofstyle.com

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Yes, it is quite odd how we tend to avoid the fact that we all will die. You hit the nail on the head that being mindful of it, though, can actually bring us more gratitude and freedom in the long run. Thanks for your insights, Jodie.

  7. blankLisa Blair

    I’m sad to hear of the loss of your friend, Bill. I’m so glad you were able to be with your friend, Kay. Your presence made such a difference, Lisa. And your words remind me of Ecclesiastes “there is a time for everything” and He has “set eternity in our hearts” which keeps us looking forward to spending all eternity with Him Who loves us.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Great scriptures to bring into the conversation, Lisa…even as there is a time for a grandfather’s death, there is also a time for a new baby to celebrate in their family that is just beginning his journey here.

  8. blankLisa Jordan

    Lisa, I’m so sorry to hear of your friend’s passing. Yes, death does seem to take us by surprise…even when it’s nearing. Loss is never easy. However, since our time of this world is only temporary, I’m rejoicing for #6. Eternal life in Heaven combats all the things that will happen to us on this earth.

  9. blankLesley

    There is so much wisdom here. I agree, it can be tempting to live in denial and not to think about things like death but it is much better to acknowledge the reality I’m sorry for the loss of your friend.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Lesley. My prayers are with Bill’s wife as she learns to adjust without him in her daily routines. Where there has been great love, there is great loss. 🙁

  10. blankJoanne Viola

    Lisa, I am so sorry for your loss. Loss is not easy to always talk about because of the pain it brings. Our hearts do hurt. However, the pain eases in remembering there is a reuniting day and eternal life yet to come.

  11. blankLinda Stoll

    Lisa, yes, yes, and yes.

    The sooner we understand these truths, the more peaceful we’ll become. We realize (finally!) how much is really out of our control. And how quickly the seasons pass. I want to live a no-regrets life. More than ever in this season.

    My love to you and yours who knew Bill …

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Thank you, Linda. I agree that facing the reality will bring us more peace in the long run than trying to deny it (which we can’t successfully do anyway!). The seasons do pass SO fast.

  12. blankDonna Reidland

    Your title grabbed my attention. And though your subject wasn’t what I expected, it is one we need to think about. Solomon said, it’s better to go into the house of mourning than of feasting. It forces us to think about our own eternity, doesn’t it? But even as Christians who know that death isn’t the end, losing someone can be painful. I’m so sorry for the loss that you experienced.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      You’re right, Donna, that the death of others does force us to think about our own eternity. I’m very glad to know that death isn’t the end. Thank you for your kindness.

  13. blankJeanWise

    So sorry for reading about your loss but love how you processed it and shared it with us. Lots of truth but especially your number 6. I am not sure of this one, though “Everyone and everything that I love will change, and I will be separated from them.” yes everything will be change but depends on how we define separated. Loved ones live on in our hearts and in heaven and in our DNA so are always a part of us. Probably a difference from Buddhism and Christianity though. We do need to hear the truth in those 5 Remembrances ( love that word!) I sat with an older fellow the other day as he talked about getting older, weaker, and with most ailments. True of all of us!

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      You provide a valuable insight here, Jean. Even though we may become separated in one sense, we do still retain our loved ones with us forever in many ways. That’s a comforting thought and truth that we also need to remember!

  14. blankMaree Dee

    Lisa,

    There is such wisdom in this post. Although I would like to look away from me growing older, it is also a privilege. Not everyone gets to grow older. I always have liked the idea of facing reality, and it makes more sense. However, I don’t always do it well. Thank you for the reminder.

  15. blankTammy Kennington

    My heart goes out to your friend, Lisa, and to you. I’m so sorry for the loss you’ve both experienced.

    As my family members age and I trail behind, the six tenants you’ve mentioned have become sharper in focus. I’m so grateful that in Him we are assured of imperishable bodies–a return to what He planned from the time of the Garden.

    Peace and grace,
    Tammy

  16. blankDavid

    That #5 is electrifying! Convicting and liberating. And “consequences” is already a kind of eternal life.

    We (my wife & I) have had a decade or so of death, as relatives of the older generation go on. It has taught me that dying is part of living. A person’s personality would remain, even distilled, while their body fell away from them. I will be like them one day. Hopkins’ poem about Felix Randall has been with me through all of it.

    Of course this doesn’t work for my friend Clare, wiped out in a motorbike accident in the 90s. Her fate spotlights your Buddhists’ #5: her actions and their consequences, her example (a fighter for justice and truth) remains (she had a fiercely secular funeral — including a reading from Trotsky — I feel sure she lives on, in a good place, but I wouldn’t know where).

    In my pre-Christian days I would often think about Christ’s death on the cross. Why didn’t He die of old age, surrounded by doting grandchildren? He was one of us (only more so) so His death was as inconvenient, humiliating and painful as it is for us (only more so), and, like us, He couldn’t help but be Himself, right to the end.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      #5 can make me both hopeful and also terrified. 🙂 “My only true possessions are my actions, and I cannot escape their consequences.” But in light of your comment, I see the beauty of it. The more we are surrounded by death, as you have been of late, the more aware we are of the need to be our true selves so our purest essence can live on even after we are gone. And I believe our purest essence is the God-breathed part, the piece of God that we all have in us.

      1. blankDavid

        Thank you. I agree: I have come to feel that the truest, innermost part of me, is Christ. Gravitating towards Him is actually being “my best self”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *