If you’ve spent time with the dying, as I have, you can divide them into two groups: good dyers and bad dyers.
What an awful observation, you might think. Not just to judge the state of another person’s mind, but to label someone as a bad dyer is in poor taste. It relegates them to a “cohort”, as if they were part of a scientific study. Please forgive the verbiage for a moment, and let’s focus on the meaning.
What I want to share is that there are people who approach death with a sense of calm and acceptance, more or less, and there are those who seem to fight it. The peaceful, seemingly graceful ones – the good dyers – have taken many of the chances that life offered them. They’ve switched careers, or ditched a soul-sucking career entirely. They’ve gotten out of toxic relationships. They have lived life on their terms, have been unafraid of not being liked, they’ve been willing to be wrong and even say “I’m sorry.”
Perhaps more importantly, they’ve understood the importance of community – maintaining a social life, whether with their children, friends, colleagues, or with the curmudgeonly neighbor next door. Resisting the urge to turn inward, and isolate – which can be common among the elderly – instead they’ve made efforts to reach out, extend themselves and keep in touch.
Of course not everyone is fortunate enough to have access to loved ones nor to a diverse community. This is one of the things we’ll dive deeper into on DTBG, as it’s a real concern (especially amongst our senior population.) How do we stay connected to the people and experiences that make us feel alive? How can we get out of our comfort zones of isolation? We must continue talking, sharing, educating – perhaps volunteering. Relationships are essential to dying better – this I know to be true!
WE DIE THE WAY WE LIVE!
Tragically, the bad dyers can be spotted from the moment you first meet them. They may seem angry, short tempered or anxious. Interestingly their souls can sometimes “fight” against their fate, like a school of salmon swimming upstream, delaying the end for days. And even if they’re surrounded by people, the bad dyers have unfinished business in the room, having yet to make peace with an estranged family member, or forgive a former spouse. Perhaps they may speak about unrequited dreams. The things they (tragically) never got around to doing.
The answer is obvious: pretty please do everything in your power, while you’re still in the land of the living, to not be a bad dyer. Pick up the phone and call your crazy sister. Tell your grumpy old Republican-voting uncle how you’ve always admired his spunk, even though you’ve never understood his politics. Say “I love you” as much as possible. It will lift your soul, create space for healing and unload some of the burden (you might be carrying.) You certainly don’t want to take it with you to your grave, do you?
And finally, don’t keep denying yourself those magical aspirations you’ve long harbored. Get that philosophy degree. Move to Paris. Write that trashy romance novel!
The good dyers, well, they’re the ones who listen to their hearts. And had the courage to follow wherever those hearts led them. And remember – we die the way we live!