Being Mortal – What Matters In The End -(Book)

Impermanence, one of the three signs of existence, has certainly been to the forefront of my mind since I left England back in mid May. I’ve lost count of how many deaths there have been in the last seven month. All people significant to me. Death is certainly a wake up call in terms of realizing the Truth of Anicha. That which arises, passes.’ And who can complain at that. But everybody does.

I have lost track of which month each died except for Grant, my luminous friend, in Vancouver. He was the first to go and it was late August. Bless him. The date eludes me though. And my Dharma Brother Alexis Clouds and Water, tragically killed in a car accident. In January I think it was. He was the last in the procession of people entering eternal meditation. So far anyway. I’ll be here in Canada until March 12th.

Their names are significant to those who suffer their loss and the date of death will for ever be an important day for those close. The name embrace our memory of them. The highs and the lows and the laughs in between. What has captured my attention in particular is life itself as it flows along on the river of our mortality.  Not in terms of ‘making the most of it’ more a growing appreciation. The moving towards what is yet to unfold and that life need not be counted away as a litany of lose more an understanding of that which arises, passes.  Ant that’s not a problem!

From the moment one enters the world until the end there is a level to our beholding existence and towards the end of life the encounter deepens. That is as it should be if we gave ourselves half a chance and allowed time and space to write the end chapter of our lives to amount to something greater than loss and limitation. Would that not be amazing!

I have been drawn to reading about end of life experiences. There are so many books around which speak of the last months, days and hours before physical death. We have all had our own experience with this when being around the terminally ill, the elderly and the like. Here is a quote from the current book I am looking at. As is pointed out in the quote below ‘the ending matters’.

In favoring the moment of intense joy over steady happiness, the remembering self is hardly always wise. “An inconsistency is built into the design of our minds,” Kahneman observes. “We have strong preferences about the duration of our experiences of pain and pleasure. We want pain to be brief and pleasure to last. But our memory … has evolved to represent the most intense moment of an episode of pain or pleasure (the peak) and the feelings when the episode was at its end. A memory that neglects duration will not serve our preference for long pleasure and short pains.” When our time is limited and we are uncertain about how best to serve our priorities, we are forced to deal with the fact that both the experiencing self and the remembering self matter. We do not want to endure long pain and short pleasure. Yet certain pleasures can make enduring suffering worthwhile. The peaks are important, and so is the ending.”

― Atul Gawande, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

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3 thoughts on “Being Mortal – What Matters In The End -(Book)”

  1. Thank you, Rev. Mugo, for this timely and wise post. My co-worker and friend died last Friday. She was working just a few weeks ago but cancer came on very quickly and she was gone before most people realized she was sick. So, yes, loss, but also gratitude for having known her. May she be in her own true home in peace.

    1. Thanks Jeannine. Yes people can pass on so quickly and some not so quickly. One can only wish for a good transition. For her and for all of those working along side her. So many books around now. I’ll be posting on many of them I am reading. Not reading all at once of course!

  2. “Towards the end of life the encounter deepens….. Et seq.”

    Although not in any obvious terminal decline I am aware I’m aging and things there were once central are no longer important. In its place is a growing awareness of something much more profound.

    Thank you for this posting Rev. Mugo, it really speaks to the heart.

    __/\__
    Norman

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