“Ironically, after I have spent a year practicing dying,
the quality most noticeably enhanced is a new joy in life.”
Stephen Levine

Although our society is obsessed with a wide-ranging struggle against mortality, I have spent 17 years assisting both “terminally ill” children and adults to come to peace with the fact that they are dying. I am continually impressed with the radical life changes that some people make when faced with death. Some even report discovering their own “deathless nature” as they begin to appreciate each valued moment.

The most common regret, though, is not having expressed their deepest sentiments to or spent enough time with those whom they had so dearly loved. Many adults who lived by the notion that earning a livelihood to care for their family was their valuable contribution to their loved ones, came to the same conclusion that researchers have: that what kids and spouses want most is time and personal interaction. If you had only one month left to live, what would you do with your precious time? The answer to this question helps to reveal your most cherished values.

On his deathbed Socrates, and later the Dalai Lama, both recommended that we should “always be occupied in the practice of dying.” Stephen Levine, author of A Year to Live: How to Live this Year as if it Were Your Last, decided to dedicate a year of his life to living as if it were his last year on earth. He concluded that although he was exploring the fear of death, it was the fear of life that needed to be investigated first.

Author's Bio: 

SUNNY MASSAD, PH.D. has worked very intimately with dying patients in the last hours and days of their lives to assist them with their transition. In many ways, she says, it is similar to that of a midwife who assists with birth. She was a volunteer at HUGS, an organization that gives special care to children diagnosed with terminal illnesses, and a volunteer and teacher at Hospice Hawaii. Sunny has a gift for taking profoundly deep subjects and making them not only digestible but inviting.