For many years I have talked about the importance of a clearly defined life philosophy. These are a set of beliefs that help guide you through life decisions and difficult challenges. The part of your philosophy that perhaps most shapes the way you live are your beliefs around death. Unfortunately, we often only stop to consider these beliefs when we lose someone or are faced with our own health challenges. Such a moment has come for me now.
Death teaches us that there are no guarantees in life and that nothing is permanent. It reminds us that now is all we have; these fleeting moments to enjoy and appreciate the company of those we love. This can be difficult to remember as we chase our dreams and try to create the future we aspire to. Or when we get bogged down by the dramas and distraction in life. However, it is most important to remember our beliefs in relation to death as we engage in our routines, putting off change or waiting for the right moment to embrace life. When we experience loss we are reminded that important things can’t be put off and that there is risk in taking those you love for granted.
Last night I laid my dog Chloe to rest. She was my companion of so many years and although I knew our time together was finite I often lived as if she would always be there. Regardless of human or animal, when we develop a bond to another life it is difficult when that bond is broken. So for anyone reading this who has never developed a bond with a pet, it is no different than losing a human loved one. The degree to which someone is a part of your life is the degree to which you will feel their loss regardless of family, friend or pet. People have come and gone in my life over the past fourteen years but Chloe was the constant. She brought a lot of joy into my life and for that, I am eternally grateful.
Death may bring regrets and thoughts about how things could have been different. Regrets of not spending enough time or appreciating the moments available to us. As I mourn the loss of a life that was closest to me for these fourteen years I embrace gratitude. In a life full of travel I have been so fortunate to have had the opportunity to stay home for the past half-year to be with my ageing dog. Although there were no memorable highlights we had small joys of short walks and quiet times in the garden. I comforted her when she was struggling as she had done for me so many times before. All things considered, it was the best possible scenario.
My friends have told me that I gave Chloe a great life. In fact, people have commented that I would have been a great father based on how I took care of my dog. Still, I find myself thinking about times when I shouted at her or was impatient. I think of all the things I could have done better. This is where my philosophy comes into play. It reminds me that, in the words of Wayne Dyer, there is nothing you can should have done or could have done in the present moment. Past choices and actions are unchangeable but we can learn to be more aware of them as they arise. Regardless of whether you believe death is the end or that there is some kind of afterlife, it is important that your philosophy of life reflects the impermanence of the limited time we have to experience it. It can remind us of the valuable time we waste on regret, worry, distractions, or procrastination. Your philosophy of life can contain a reminder to live to the best of your ability and not to wait for death to remind you.