Who Do YOU Need to Appreciate in Your Life?

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Girl Getting Piggyback Ride A few years ago, I was on a 5 hour drive with my husband. He had fallen asleep (so obviously I was driving!) and I had slipped into this cool ‘zone’ of being totally in the present moment. I felt so alive, the sun was shining and the green hills, trees and countryside were vibrant and beautiful. I watched a bird of prey hover at the roadside, then dive towards some small mouse or creature. I thought – poor thing! It has no idea it’s about to die, and in turn this reminded me of someone I had lost a few years previously.

But instead of distracting myself as I normally do, I allowed my sadness and cried a little. And this thought suddenly came out of nowhere: “Death is PART of life”! In fact, without death, this planet would be choked to death and overrun by its very life! I repeated it to myself in wonder – I had always been so afraid of death – mine and other people’s.

And as I was thinking that death is not only part of life but NECESSARY, something in me shifted. And this feeling of euphoria literally washed over me. I felt light, connected to the universe, and connected to something so much bigger than I am. The world made sense (if only for a short while), all my fears dropped away and I continued driving – in a state of what I can only describe as bliss.

I have never forgotten that moment. And when I find myself facing death in my life, I remind myself that death is part of life. At some point, all things that live must die. And whilst in many ways this could be considered depressing, it can also be a reminder to cherish what is most important to us NOW. Like enjoying ourselves, enjoying the people we love, being of service to others.

What brought all this on? Well, this week I found out my almost 17 year old cat has a tumour in her lungs. She’s already beaten the odds – at 15 ½ years old she had a leg amputated, and she’s had no teeth for the last 7 years. She’s moved half-way around the world (from England to Canada), and outlived both her brother and the cat I got after her brother died. I feel like I grew up with her, and life without her is hard to imagine!

But I’m also lucky – I have the chance to really cherish her until she does pass on. I notice now that I appreciate her more. And when she’s bugging me, I’m much more patient with her (and she’s Siamese – so she REALLY knows how to bug me!). And THAT got me thinking: Why is it that imminent death makes us nicer to someone? If someone is that important to us, why don’t we cherish them ALL the time?

Because here’s a freaky thought. We’re ALL dying! It’s actually the only certainty in life.
And yet we treat our lives and our loved ones as if we – and they – will continue forever, as if we have endless opportunities for ‘do-overs’. We assume we will see our loved ones tomorrow, but the truth is, we may not.

In Buddhism, meditating on what it would be like to die not only prepares us for our own death – but teaches us to value our lives. By thinking about what we will ‘lose’, we learn to appreciate what truly matters in the NOW.

So, next time you’re feeling impatient, grumpy, annoyed with someone you care about (the people who really matter to you), remember you’re LUCKY to have them in your life. And to help you appreciate them and leave the snappiness behind here are some powerful questions for you to think about going forwards:

  1. “Who is most important to you in life”
  2. “What do you most love about them”
  3. “When did you last tell them?”
  4. “What would my life be like without this person in it?”
  5. “If this person died tomorrow, what would I most miss about them?” And focus on that instead of whatever it is they’re doing that’s annoying you!

Don’t wait until AFTER someone’s death to think about what you love about them! Appreciate them every single day, cherish them regularly, and have extra patience for those who matter most. If you’re lucky enough to have a full, long life with that person – just imagine how much better that relationship will be. And if not, think how much better you’ll feel when they’re gone, knowing they knew how much you loved and appreciated them.

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