At some point in life—sometimes in youth, sometimes late—each of us is due to awaken to our mortality. There are so many triggers: a glance in a mirror at your sagging jowls, graying hair, stooping shoulders.

The march of birthdays, especially those round decades—fifty, sixty, seventy;

Meeting a friend you have not seen in a long while and being shocked at how he or she has aged.

Seeing old photographs of yourself and those long dead who peopled your childhood.

Encountering Mister Death in a dream.

What do you feel when you have such experiences? What do you do with them?

Do you plunge into frenetic activity to burn off the anxiety and avoid the subject?

Try to remove wrinkles with cosmetic surgery or dye your hair?

Decide to stay thirty-nine for a few more years?

Distract yourself quickly with work and everyday life routine?

Forget all such experiences?

Ignore your dreams?

I urge you not to distract yourself.

Instead, savor awakening. Take advantage of it.

Pause as you stare into the photograph of the younger you. Let the poignant moment sweep over you and linger a bit; taste the sweetness of it as well as the bitterness.

Keep in mind the advantage of remaining aware of death, of hugging its shadow to you.

Such awareness can integrate the darkness with your spark of life and enhance your life while you still have it.

The way to value life, the way to feel compassion for others, the way to love anything with greatest depth is to be aware that these experiences are destined to be lost.

Many times I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see a patient make substantial positive changes very late in life, even close to death.

It’s never too late. You’re never too old.




Staring At The Sun: Being at peace with your own mortality

Irvin Yalom



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