Home > My Blogs > (Not Necessarily) Dreaded Dialogue

(Not Necessarily) Dreaded Dialogue

Posted in: Blog by amy on April 16, 2012

It’s Spring. It’s National Poetry Month. It’s a time of renewal, of hope, of opportunity, of lyrical words. Yet, I’m going to write about something that might make many of you want to stop reading immediately. Be forewarned: I’m writing about death. I had so many great headlines for this post, but I knew that if I even alluded to the true subject herein that I might not even get you to read my first few lines. And, I know who you are: my readers who cringe when the word death is even spoken, my friends who want to stop talking when that word sneaks into our conversation.

We have avoided the topic for years. But, what happens when our young children start asking us the very questions that have infiltrated our minds? What happens when we can’t just push that formidable topic aside any longer? I understand that you haven’t wanted to discuss death with me as we enjoy a cup of tea at the local Starbucks. Now, my friends, it’s time: The conversation must begin and continue, and, yes, like all things, it eventually must end.

Over the weekend, my sister was driving home from vacation when her kids began asking a bunch of questions such as: what happens when people die, where do they go, is there a God, are people reborn, etc.  (You know, all of the questions that make a road trip that much more enticing!) She texted me asking for some quick advice. I told her to tell them that death is natural, that all that is living will eventually die and to emphasize that we are all a part of the same natural cycle of birth and death.

And, that, of course, got me thinking.

Why are these topics so challenging, avoided or painful to even discuss? Why isn’t the conversation as natural as the process? Why do we start to panic when our kids so innocently want to discuss subjects that are clearly the most fascinating?

Maybe it is because we are scared. So, we choose to avoid the reality of the dialogue all together. We’ve been trying to dodge death since the beginning. Ah, yes … another cycle! A cycle of avoidance. A cycle of fear. A cycle of denial.

I believe we can turn that around. Death doesn’t have to be so ugly and feared and avoided. But, look at how we have personified death. Death is black. Death is dark. Death is cold. Death is tears. Death is fear. Death is mean. Death is downright scary.

Yet, something keeps challenging that image for me. And, that something is the optimistic energy of the unknown. What if? What if with death, there is a peacefulness and beauty that we never even imagined? Or what if there is a nothingness that is so benign that we wasted decades fearing it?

It’s been eight years since I called a non-conventional friend of mine, as I gasped for air in between my overflowing tears. I had just learned that my 32-year-old best friend had suddenly died. I could hardly breathe. I could hardly walk. I could hardly see. I felt like a bucket of black paint had been cruelly dumped on my world.

Shaking as I held the phone, I told my friend on the other line what had happened. He listened to my sobs without saying a word. Then he said: “Death is what makes life beautiful.” I was hardly in an introspective mood, and I barely had the capacity to stand let alone absorb his seemingly odd words. However, I did absorb them. Dizzily, I ingested those words. And they have been swimming around my head ever since.

Death is what makes life beautiful.

It’s such an interesting theory. Without death, life would not be so cherished. Without death, we would not savor the breath. Without death, we would not know the rare beauty that is life.

It is so true. Yet, we are conditioned to think that death is ugly. We are  so quick to turn our heads, to shut our ears, to stop the conversation. But, aren’t we just perpetuating a cycle of anxiety and fear? Don’t we have the power to turn that pattern around? The truth is, there is only one cycle we can’t mess with in this lifetime, and that is the cycle of life. It begins. It ends. That’s it. You can be famous, you can be a multimillionaire, you can be a homeless man, you can be the hottest new reality TV star, you can be a drug addict, you can be the President or you can be the Pope. But, you are here, and you will be gone. Every single one of us. It’s that simple;

We all have the same fate.

You would think that fact alone would be comforting. It’s not as if some of us will have the power to escape that destiny. Think about that reassuring certainty: We all were born. We all will die. It’s something concrete to which we all can cling. We may not know if we will find true love in this lifetime. We may not know if our job will be secure in a year or two. But, we do know this: We will die.

I know I may be losing some of you here. It’s not an attractive topic. It’s not my most appealing post. But, it is one of the most fascinating conversations to be had.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Death can suck. I still feel the pain from the loss of my sweet friend on a regular basis. I still miss my father, who died suddenly when I was just 21. I still struggle with the sadness that finds me because both of them (two of my favorite people who stepped on this earth) are no longer in my life. It sucks. There’s no need to say it more eloquently. It just sucks.

On the other hand, I know that these two losses have made me obsess about the moments and many of you have heard me go on and on about the concept of “now.” All we have is this moment. I passionately talk about that often: absorb the moment. However, I want to talk about more than just absorbing the moment. I want to talk about absorbing reality. We are here. We will be gone.

What if we just embrace that as a fact that is not so scary? What if we truly believe that it is the most natural occurrence? What if we are able to whole-heartedly tell our children that they need not fear death as it is part of the natural cycle of life that can be found all around them.

Look at the flowers. Look at the trees. Look at the people. See the beauty? See the patterns? See the life? It’s there. It’s truly amazing … in part, because it’s fleeting. We appreciate the blooming buds on the trees right now because we know that they are there to enjoy for such a short time. We admire the bright tulips that are popping up in our gardens for the same reason. They will be gone.

They come, they go. We admire, we enjoy. We laugh, we cry. We are born, we will die.

Consider the conversation. Think about the inherent beauty in the miraculous cycle of being. Contemplate letting the fear go and letting the comfort of a singular reality into your mind.

A singular reality. I like the sound of that. Let’s make space in our minds to consider that today, or at least let’s refer to that concept when the difficult questions are bouncing around the backseats of our cars.


*(In an effort to keep this conversation going, I encourage you to share your thoughts and feelings below. This is not a dreaded dialogue — it’s a subject to be celebrated and embraced.)


Share This Page

4 Responses to “(Not Necessarily) Dreaded Dialogue”

  1. Jenny says:

    I’m not sure we’ve had this conversation, but what is so difficult for me is the intangible of death. I can’t “wrap” my head around it. It is too overwhelming for me. It becomes more of a philosophical conversation: Why were we put here in the first place if we are just going to die? AND The loss of a loved one creates such a feeling of loss and heartache, so why connect so closely in the first place if we, inevitably, will lose that person – both in either their death or ours? I know it’s because we must enjoy the life we are given, but the pattern is cyclical and that is what is overwhelming to me. You can’t get a grasp on it. Lastly, it is very hard to imagine not being on this earth when, hopefully, my children and eventually grandchildren, are still here. That idea completely freaks me out. To one day not be with them, not be here for them, is incomprehensible. I do try to live and enjoy life to it’s fullest since we are only given a short period here, and to answer my children’s questions honestly and kindly, in a thoughtful manner; but it is very difficult to answer questions that are intangible – unknown, which is likely what is so “scary” about death.

    Very interesting subject.

  2. Amy says:

    Jen – I think that cyclical pattern can be turned around in your mind … instead of it overwhelming you, it can actually COMFORT you. There is not this huge element of the “unknown” within that cycle. We know we once were not here, we are now here, we won’t be here again. Trust me, I often get dizzy trying to picture the world without us in it. It’s very challenging to even contemplate. However, in regards to you having trouble visualizing the world and your loved ones in this world while you are NOT, I can tell you this: Remember that your grandparents and parents, for example, all lived on this earth for many decades without you here. They were fine. It just was. It just is. It just will be. Loved ones existed with no idea that we would ever step foot on this earth, and eventually, other loved ones will exist without our presence. However, it’s more comforting to know that those who knew us and lost us will still have our spirit/memories/lessons within them once we are not here! There is so much of my dad alive in me. There are so many times I think of Sari and smile. It’s incredibly sad, but in a sense, a big part of them still exists. Your presence will be felt and treasured even when you are no longer present.
    I admire your courage to think about topics that scare you, and I love you.

  3. Todd says:

    Wow, you were right you got my brain charged and moving in lots of directions on this one. First thing that came to mind was this funeral I went to as a child and it was a joyful celebration. People were singing, laughing and I absolutely got a new perception of life and death.

  4. amy says:

    I love that idea of a funeral being more of a celebration of someone’s life. It’s obviously much easier to do this when we have the idea that the life was a full one, rather than one that was tragically cut short. But, it’s hard to quantify a “full life,” isn’t it?

Leave a Reply


Close [x]

Newsletter Signup

Get my newest blog posts and book news sent to your email by signing up here:

Email Address

Thank you!
(And, for those who like a tidy inbox, no worries: I will only send updates about once a month.)