Did you fear birth?
It seems like a nonsensical question, doesn’t it?
When Hal Elrod told me that this is a question he poses in response to the fear of death, it was hard not to be skeptical. Of course, we don’t fear birth, it’s the beginning of life–a time for celebration, affection, and potential. In the grand scheme of things, though, Hal would say that death is much like birth–it is the other side of the inevitable. We all come into this world and, ultimately, we all will leave this world…so what’s with the fear of this inevitable truth that our life one day ends?
What I’ve often seen in my career caring for more than 60,000 seniors, many at my company Áegis Living, is not necessarily the fear of death, but the process by which one passes on from this world. How will it happen? Will there be pain? Will I forget who I am? Even people who have been fairly healthy their entire lives can become so deeply rooted in this fear of death that they seem to cause their own decline. Hal, a cancer survivor, has seen it too–both in community with others diagnosed with cancer and in interviews with doctors. Individuals who find out they are sick sometimes begin to fear the worst, even when a cancer diagnosis they have is highly treatable. They see a certain mortality rate and cling to it.
I always like to tell the story of two residents that I worked with very early in my career in senior living. One, Dr. Smith, was a former doctor and seemingly healthy man. He was well-educated, on top of his health routine, at a healthy weight, and had a wife who very often reminded him that he needed to eat well to nourish his body with nutrient-dense foods. The other, Carl, who had been a farmer, was very much the opposite; a gentleman even older than Dr. Smith, who was classified as overweight, did hard labor his entire life and didn’t seem half as invested in his own health. I saw these two gentlemen and had always just assumed that one would live longer than the other. Surely, a doctor who’s taken such immaculate care of himself and others for his entire life would see a lengthy retirement well into his nineties!
Well, I was wrong. You see, Dr. Smith was healthy in body…but his mindset? It was nothing like Carl’s. You could hear Carl strolling to the dining hall from a mile away, cracking jokes and laughing with his wife. Even though he was maybe less healthy from the medical perspective, he had a joie de vivre that lifted the energy of every room he stepped into. He spent his entire life out in nature and had a deep appreciation for the world around him and his place in it. Meanwhile, Dr. Smith was a quiet man, who was closed off from much of the world. Even though he had devoted his life to helping people, he spent his days indoors, often sitting, and under bright fluorescent lights. He passed away only a few years after my first time meeting him. Carl lived for another decade, well into his nineties.
Hal has seen a similar story. For all the patients who have lost their health to a fractional mortality rate, there have been individuals who have stood firm in their will to live against insurmountable odds. Patients and community members who received the hardest diagnosis of their lives with an 18% chance of surviving–maybe less–and decided that they were going to make it through the war with cancer no matter what.
Why do we believe this is possible?
Hal, the brilliant mind behind The Miracle Morning series, and I agree: conquering fear is all about perspective and mindset.
When I interviewed centenarians for 30 Summers More, I would ask them: “Do you fear dying?” and the most amazing response that I got was from a woman who had reached the age of 106. She simply said, “No, not at all. I’ve already got my angel wings packed and can depart at any moment that I’m called to go.” What an incredible mindset to have!
My advice to people out there who are finding themselves being consumed by the fear of passing on? Embrace a Miracle Mindset.
Find your passion.
Build your community, and have people that you can turn to in times of loss or hardship.
Spend time outdoors and connect with nature – its healing powers are incredible.
But, most importantly, don’t date-stamp yourself! This can look like so many things. Maybe you can’t move the way you used to and need to find a new way to do things. Maybe you want to travel or do stand-up comedy or write a brilliant novel. You can! If there is something that will give you even an ounce more of purpose and love for life while you’re here and will let you look back when you’re in your nineties and say, “I lived to my fullest and my angel wings are packed and ready for when it’s my time to go,” then do that!
There is no perfect formula. It’s your path to chart.