When I was a kid, we had a tradition. We lived close to a forest, and there were these small white flowers that blossomed in the spring. Just in time for Mother’s Day. We used to go to the woods with my sisters to pick up those white flowers for mom. It was a beautiful moment.
But why was it so beautiful?
When I think of it, the flower itself is not that special. It's just a simple white flower.
What made it beautiful, though, is that the flowers were only available at that exact time of the year. Later, the flowers would wilt and die.
The same applies to all living things. You and me, too. We are beautiful because we are here only for this brief amount of time.
I recently thought about my 50th birthday. I thought of the loved ones present, I thought about the party we’d throw, but most importantly, I thought about the things I would then regret not having done.
There was only one. If I didn’t do this one thing now, I would regret it for the rest of my life.
It had been my dream since I was 14 years old. My white flower.
Leaving for Brazil with a one-way ticket.
If I lived forever, why would I bother jumping on that adventure right now? Why not do it tomorrow? Next year? Next decade? Next century? Next never?
I wasn’t planning to die without realizing that dream.
Yet, I had already postponed my adventure for over two years, because “I didn't have the money.” “I would do it later.” “I'm not sure if I even have any friends left there.” I told myself all kinds of bullshit to avoid making the decision.
But the truth was: I was scared. Scared of making the leap. Scared of heading to the unknown. Scared of leaving without enough money in the bank.
Then it finally dawned on me: I was going to die one day. If I didn't do it now, I might never do it. The clock was ticking.
And the cool thing was, suddenly all those petty fears didn't mean a thing anymore. Facing my own death put things in perspective. Suddenly, the pain of making a change was smaller than the pain of staying the same.
That evening, I bought the flights.
I'm not saying, you necessarily need to make some huge changes. I'm saying, by making death familiar, you'll see what’s important. Both the small and the big things.
As a society, we are so afraid of death we don't even want to think about it. Instead, we keep busy. We worry if our boss will let us have that raise. We worry if the shirt we're wearing looks too big on us. We worry if the tablecloth matches the plates at our dinner party.
Then we don't need to mess our heads with the difficult idea that we're going to die one day and the tablecloth won't change that.
If we were even a little less afraid of death, if we remembered more often that we all will die one day, those petty things wouldn't mean a thing. We would be less worried and live a happier, more balanced life.
Here's the deal: We fear the unknown. By making the unknown familiar, we lose the fear. By making death more familiar, we will be less afraid of it.
Here lies the real magic: Only when we're not afraid of death, we can truly be free. Because then we understand that the pain of changing is smaller than the pain of staying the same. We gain the courage to take that divorce, start that business, publish that blog post. And yes, to go on that adventure.
This is why we should embrace death. We should ask our grandparents about how they feel about dying. We should remember the loved ones who have already passed away. And we should remember that one day, we will be gone, too.
Because, one day, all all the people, experiences, successes & failures of our lives will be gone.
We should appreciate them from the bottom of our hearts, now that we still have them.
One day, I will die. Everyone dear to me will die. Everything I've accomplished will be forgotten.
You will die. Better remember that.
Miika Karppinen. Adventurer, public speaking coach, storyteller.