“To die, to sleep—No more—and by a sleep to say we endThe heartache and the thousand natural shocksThat flesh is heir to—’tis a consummationDevoutly to be wished! To die, to sleep.To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub,For in that sleep of death what dreams may comeWhen we have shuffled off this mortal coil,Must give us pause. There’s the respectThat makes calamity of so long life.” — Hamlet
What would dying well even look like? I’ve written on that previously. But it is a question, one of the questions of human existence. There are plenty of philosophies and religions out there, and all of them have something to say about dying. In most, death is a certain kind of closure; sometimes, it is a release, a return, or a cessation. It is a distinctive from life. Separated by the event itself, life and death are not seen as contiguous, but as an interruption, an ending. But this is not always the case.
There is the thought that how we live impacts, and is directly related to how we die. Not meaning the pain or the agony of death; but the meaning. Aristotle said, “Count no one happy until they are dead.” That is, the meaning of a life is not completed until that life is no longer (perhaps not even then). Life well is crucial to dying well. So, what can dying teach us about living?
It is not for us. As I noted in the earlier posts on death, we cannot experience our own deaths. Our deaths are experienced by those we leave behind. In dying, we step into silence, step into the unknown, step out in faith in the faithfulness of God. All of this can be also how we live. We don’t have to live for ourselves, trying to accrue wealth and honours for us, for our name and reputation. We can live with the silence, with the excess of things, believing and having faith in something we cannot explain or see. We can live into greater meaning than this immanent world, or we can live in fear. The choice is ours really.
We do not know what dreams may come, in life and in death. They are connected; they are united. We live and we die, not alone, but as we build up a life in community, beyond what we think or imagine, in faith, in hope, and in love.