This may sound morbid at first, but hear me out and you’ll see that death has the ability to radically transform your relationships.
When we truly contemplate death, that the possibility exists that either we or our children may not make it through today, then it starts to change the kind of questions we ask in our parenting. And questions shape our experience of reality by focusing our minds on what is important.
Death changes our questions from things like “How can I get this child to listen to me?” to “How can I connect more deeply with my child in this moment?” It changes questions like “Is my child doing enough extra murals to make a success of their adult life?” to “Is my child enjoying his life right now?” From “How can I possibly get through this to do list?” we move to “Where can I find more time in my day to spend with my loved ones?” We replace “Why do my kids have to wake up so early?” to “Could I possibly be luckier than I am to be awakened by such beautiful beings?”
Suddenly every moment becomes a precious gift; stolen time. The world looks brighter and more beautiful and everything about your children becomes something that would be missed if they were gone (including their mess and fighting and cheekiness and noise and disobedience).
We are under the illusion that we will live forever (and so will our kids) – that tragedy only happens to other people. This is normal and part of the natural defense mechanisms that we set up in childhood in order to quell the anxiety inherent in recognizing that we are just worm food like every other creature. It is too intense to think about our total annihilation all the time and so we block it out and focus in on the daily grind.
If we thought about death constantly we would most likely be gibbering wrecks. However, from time to time when we’re faced with our own death, or lose a loved one, or even just contemplate death, we have a window of opportunity to strip away everything that is not essential. We have a chance to see what is really important, to focus in on love, and to deeply appreciate this moment with whatever it brings.
Without death, I believe we would live lives of mediocrity and we wouldn’t love nearly as deeply. Death is offering us an opportunity not to squander this incredible gift of life and to truly appreciate our children exactly as they are.
The truth is, none of us will live forever, and our final day is not known to us. It could be in fifty years’ time or it could be today. Without the certainty of tomorrow we are able to more fully be here now.
If you knew for sure that you would never see your child, spouse, parent or friend again after today, wouldn’t you take a little bit more care in how you interacted with them today? Wouldn’t you hold them just slightly closer and tighter and longer if you knew this was the last hug? Wouldn’t love soften your words and dissolve your anger?
Every now and then spend some time contemplating death and see how your relationship with your children will blossom – how love and appreciation for your children right now in this moment, exactly as they are is all that really matters.