When I came to America, I noticed that no one dies here. They just disappear. It seemed very strange to me. It’s about time that Americans acknowledge death is part of life. As a Taoist told a king 2,000 years ago, “If your grandparents and your parents didn’t die, you wouldn’t be king today. If you do not die, your son and his son won’t be king someday.”
One of my most profound memories from childhood in Taiwan was at an old family friend’s 75th birthday. She was so proud to show us her burial outift her son had bought for her as her birthday present. She had already picked out an auspicious burial site of course and now she was very happy to show us her final accoutrement on display in her bedroom. She was smiling contently knowing she would be laid to rest and meet her ancesters in fine style.
Another special memory for me is the death of a friend’s husband who died peacefully in his sleep in ripe old age. His widow commented, “He not only knows how to live well but also knows how to die well.” Can anyone ask for more from life?
I had my first “conversation” with my daughter when she was 8. I made sure she knows how to think and make decisions for herself because, as I told her, I will not always be here to guide her. She complained that I was being morbid. I just laughed and told her no one lives forever and death is part of life.
I reminded her periodically over the years that I do not wish to be resusitated and my body parts are to be donated. What’s left is to be cremated and the ash scattered, along with the ash of my first born daughter who died in infancy of leukemia, to the wind so it can return to earth and help flowers grow. I also made sure she knows about my US Living Will Registry. And I have a list of my valuables and art collections so they don’t accidentally get thrown into the trash or mistaken as junk.
I’ve never been afraid of death. It’s just exchanging old clothes for new ones. As long as I live a life of no regrets with nothing to be ashamed, what is there to be afraid?