Wednesday, August 18, 2010

On Death and Dying

There is one inevitable fact about life, it will end.

Death is generally known as the termination of biological functions that sustain a living organism. In Western society we have a confounding factor to confuse this general definition of death; life support. There continues to be debate about what actually constitutes death in a human. Some believe it is when cardiac and pulmonary function cease while others contend that death occurs with brain death. Whatever the definition you choose to accept there remains the fact that one day you will die. You will stop breathing, your heart will stop beating and your brain will stop functioning.

There is something about death that makes me want to live. My life has been touched by death from a young age. Unlike some of my friends, I have been to many wakes and funerals including that of my father who died when I was a child. Having had death in my life from a young age I was able to understand mortality and the fleeting time we have on the earth. Although I had a fear of death, the realization that my life was a story with an ending inspired me to attempt to live a great story. I consider myself fortunate to have been taught by death to live.

Every day I see people merely going through the motions of life. If I refer to the definition of death they very much seem dead to me. There is no light in their eyes and I wonder if there is any brain function. The heart is pumping and the lungs bringing oxygen to the body but it seems like the person is attached to the life support system of the 9-5 job, unhappy marriage and obligations. To further reduce brain function the individual dulls the intellect with mindless hours spent in front of the TV. One day melds into the next much like the life of a person on life support. The routine of a life resembling the rhythmic sound of the ventilator and the constant beeping of the heart monitor.

There are many sayings and proverbs about life and death. Many of these truisms espouse the importance of seizing the day or living each day as if it is our last. The thing is, this day just might be the last. If today was your last day on earth what would you have changed? Who would you have called? Would you have gone to work? Would you have done that workout? Would you have skipped dessert? Have you lived a life that is worthy of death?
Many see death as a bad thing but I happen to disagree to a certain extent. Death is bad for those who are not ready to die and those who are around them. Practically speaking, for obvious reasons, it is a good thing we die. Imagine if every organism that ever landed on this earth never died. It would be very over crowded and kind of gross. Death can also inspire us to live. Death means that we have a life.

Sometimes I find myself getting into a rut and getting close to the ventilator. A touch of mouth to mouth shakes me out of my stupor and I reassess my life with an understanding of my limited time enjoying what the earth has to offer. It is at these moments that I decide to try something new, take a risk and ensure that what I am doing has meaning for me. I have made some changes in my life this summer and I am very content. I am trying to live the proverb. I am inspired by death to live each day as if there is a tomorrow while knowing I am content if today was the last.

I booked a couple extra weeks of vacation today. Time to push this life. What shall I do?

Yesterday I hit the trails of Stanley Park for a run. I obtained an acute understanding of the difficulty of running. I ran a few seconds faster per mile then I usually run and it was tough. Running is a very tough sport! Today I was in the pool for my usual swim workout and I managed 3000 meters with 1000 of IM.

Happy Training!


  1. Good post, J. D., and lots of things to think about. It never hurts to be reminded of them.
    Just one question: What's the significance of the picture of the shirtless dudes in the middle of the post? Not sure what one has to do with the other.
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. The photo is me trying to make a great story of this life with some friends!

  3. Thanks for answering my question. I assume you're the fellow on the far left. Looks like you guys are having a great time, making some great memories for the future.