Discover the five things I’ve learned about living meaningfully with death after our year of challenge and loss.
As I wrote in a recent year-ending editorial in the New York Times, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has done more than awaken us to the fact that we die. This personal, global disaster challenges us to honor the passing of others and to activate the role we each have in facing our own mortality. The shared loss and pain we’ve each experienced in the last year makes it harder than ever to follow our first impulses, simply to turn away from death. Covid-19 demands that we fold the prospect of death meaningfully into our lives.
As a hospice and palliative medicine physician and founder of Mettle Health, I devote my professional life to consulting and supporting patients and caregivers navigating serious illness. Now, in this online class, I’ll share the five essential lessons I’ve learned while helping others navigate serious health challenges for themselves or for someone they love. More than that, I’ll try as best I can to contextualize the essential things that have become even clearer to me over the course of the pandemic.
Some of what I’ll share I’ve been thinking about for a long time: For example, how my own experiences have shaped how I’ve come to think about death. I’ll also share the key themes of my book, A Beginner’s Guide to the End, Practical Advice for Living Life and Facing Death— which offers strategies for planning ahead, dealing with illness, getting help along the way, preparing for when death is close, and the practical matters that come after death.
But what I really hope to focus on is what I’ve learned even more clearly about living and dying since last March, when the pandemic began. I’ll explain how living in the face of illness can set off a cascade of realization and appreciation; how loss can be the force that shows you what you love and urges you to revel in that love while the clock ticks; and how I’ve often seen that reveling in love is one sure way to see through and beyond yourself to the wider world, where immortality lives.
I’ve come to see that the invisible threat we’ve been forced to face during the pandemic offers us a unique moment to look at the big picture of life I believe that the things I’ve learned might offer something of a mission statement for some ambitious and practical changes, ideas that can lead to something better for ourselves and for the people we’re connected to. I’d very much like to share these possibilities with you and to hear what you’re thinking and feeling.
I hope you will join me.