Her nose wrinkles and she pulls back slightly. The corners of her mouth tuck themselves tightly, refusing to express any emotion.
It’s a lot of emotion. It is a mix of disgust, fear, and discomfort.
This woman just asked me about what I do and I told her. Now she doesn’t know how to respond, so she asks, “What do you love so much about death, anyway?”
It is mortality that I love, not death.
The knowledge and awareness of my limited time provide the ultimate freedom. When I have sight of that limitation, what is important to me rises to the surface effortlessly. I don’t waste time dissecting the behavior of others, getting stuck in harmful patterns, or questioning my decisions. I put my effort into relationships and experiences. I let go of things and achievements.
When I have sight of that limitation.
I consider myself fortunate to be among people who are also keenly aware of mortality. They live with a life-changing medical condition or are caring for someone with one. They work on legacy projects in hospice. They plan services and write eulogies for beloved family and friends. They focus on connection. They embody their values. They move into fear, because they want to remove the possibility of regret. They favor what is good enough and finished over ideal plans.
Being with these wholehearted humans nearly every day keeps mortality under my nose. That intimacy encourages me to keep my focus on what matters most.
I see their faces twitch in the early stages of holding back tears. I see the bags under their eyes that tell the story of how few hours of rest they gain as a caregiver. I see their fingers fidget, spinning rings and cracking knuckles, when they don’t know what to say. I see their shoulders drop and roll forward in a heaviness of sorrow that words do not touch. I see them express lifetimes of love while humbly lifting a spoon to gently feed. I see them collapse into salty oceans of raging sobs. I see them crack and immediately spackle over those spots to make it through the days. I see them caress hands and faces as though they were the most priceless gems. I see them unable to speak.
My work is to see all of this and reflect it in a beautiful way. I condense what is already saturated with emotion and intensity and tell a moving, sweeping story.
How could I not love mortality? It is the stuff of life.
This makes for awkward conversation at parties and networking events. My enthusiasm for mortality is more than most people are willing to process during casual conversation.
I see a lot of incredible moments of the human experience while being with families in love and grief. From each family I learn, and those lessons and points to ponder are what I wish to share with you here.