From Living Well to Leaving Well
I am thankful for the gift of relaxation (vacationing) as we completed our drive through the beautiful Lake District to Edinburgh, cruised the Baltic and now completing the Mediterranean route as I write.
I believe in working hard (vocationing) and enjoying the fruits of it, completing 4 books in 12 months and taking SKM through another year.
I believe in living well. We all do, though we may define it differently. For me, it is about doing meaningful work, touching lives, inspiring faith, and embracing love.
In living well, however you define it, we do need to think about it and prepare for it. Most vacationers on the cruise are retirees who have some means. One couple has cruised a total of more than a thousand days. That's a lot of cruising and you need a lot of disposable income to be able to do that!
No doubt many worked hard at making and saving money, and are now enjoying the fruits of their labour.
On this extended vacationing of six weeks, I am also vocationing for I am taking time out to write about Leaving Well.
Most of us know something about living well. And most have given some thought to it. But I am not sure we know much about Leaving Well or given much thought to it. Life and death is a continuum. It is not possible to live well if we don't leave well. It is also not possible to leave well if we feel we had not lived well.
On this cruise, I make it my business to talk to fellow vacationers. "If there is such a thing as Leaving Well, what would its characteristics be?" I asked.
Since 95% onboard are westerners, I have not encountered any reluctance to talk about death. There was no taboo-related resistance.
Many, however, confessed that they have not given much thought to it, as I suspected. "Now that you set me thinking...," they cautiously responded. Here are some common characteristics I harvested.
First, we need to accept the reality of dying. The fact is our days are numbered from the day we were born. Assuming we live to 90 years. That's only 32,850 days. Personally, on that calculation, I only have less than 7,300 days to live. That's not a whole lot, is it? And everyday, that number is reduced by one. The reduction is relentless and I can do nothing to stop it from decreasing!
Second, we hope we can leave peacefully. That is likely a universal aspiration from time immemorial. Hence, we have on many tombstones, the initials RIP for Rest In Peace, though some also hope to Rise if Possible.
And thirdly, we would like to leave no mess for those who are left behind to clean up. This is where we need to think about wills, advance directives and other end-of-life issues way ahead so that we make responsible decisions without burdening others.
A New Zealander summarized it this way: To leave well is to know you have made a difference to people around you, to be prepared and ready to exit with dignity surrounded by people you love. To know that you have lived well and are ready to die responsibly is the essence of Leaving Well.
I hope to unpack what it means to accept the REALITY that death is inevitable. What it means to RESPOND appropriately and to leave RESPONSIBLY are issues we need to reflect and act on.
Please wish me well as I develop the details for the book. Tell me if the proposed title makes sense. Originally, I wanted to title it Dying Well and perhaps a subtitle "I am Dying. Be Kind".
I would love to hear from you.