Reflections on our Mortality: We Gain Deeper Wisdom

Patient Expert

Warning: This post is on the dark side, and touches on sensitive issues. Please feel free to click on to my other posts.

If you’re reading this, chances are you have survived a suicidal depression. You’re never the same, after. You have looked death straight in the eye. Every day of the rest of your life is going to be profoundly different.

Our relationship with our own mortality is no longer the same. For whatever reason, death is turned up in our lives, and is not going to just go away. He waits comfortably, in his shrouded best, in our foyer. Somehow, we have to learn to live with that.

I can’t speak for people who have survived other types of potentially fatal circumstances - medical or otherwise - but I gather that the intrusion of death’s dark shadow has had a similar effect. Some of us may emerge more optimistic, others more fatalistic. Either way, our perspective is altered. We find ourselves more enlightened.

In any event, we are no strangers to realizations. To mention a few:

  • Each day is a miracle. Even when caught in the throes of a raging depression and ruing the day we were born, we cannot help but wonder why we’re still breathing. As for those good days, we know better than to squander them on meaningless activities.
  • What used to be important may not be so important, anymore. Says Ecclesiastes: “Emptiness and chasing the wind.”
  • Or, what used to be important now becomes vitally important. JFK, for instance, was administered last rites three times before he turned 40. Clearly, he was not a man willing to wait his turn.
  • We acquire a deeper wisdom. Or it could be that the people around us now seem more shallow. We have better things to do. We make more time for ourselves, or for new people in our lives.
  • We gain a sense of perspective. “One life. A little gleam of Time between two Eternities,” wrote Thomas Carlyle. That about sums it up.

I am writing this as the night looms longest. We long for the light, but we know that the dark has much to teach us. We may never again trust the light when it eventually returns. We know one day it will fail us. But with inevitability comes appreciation. When that new day comes, we will dedicate ourselves to enjoying it.