Live Your Life More Fully by Knowing You’re Going to Die

Some of the most motivated people I know are those that have had near-death experiences. They have what is often called mortality motivation. They know without a shadow of a doubt that their days on this earth are finite.

It’s an incredibly motivating experience.

Several years ago, I did a few sessions with my friend Rowena, an emergency room nurse, and at the time, she was interested in becoming a death doula.

She’d held the hands of so many people during their last breath on earth that she felt it was imperative to help people BEFORE that moment. She didn’t want her clients to get to the end of their life without saying what they wanted to say and without doing the things they wanted to do.

She helps people prepare for the end of their life so they can live out their lives to the fullest.

One pivotal exercise she had me do was to imagine my death. (gulp)

With a point of view of having only hours left to live, imagine who you would like to visit you. What would you like to tell them? What do you want them to say to you?

It was a deeply moving exercise.

I realized I don’t want to hold onto the words “I love you.” I want to sprinkle those words on the hearts of those around me, like chocolate chips on pancakes.

They don’t have to be saved for an intimate partner because every person I envisioned coming to see me I loved for so many different reasons.

And what I wanted to hear from the people I invited into this experience was that I made an impact in their lives – that I mattered.

If I’m honest with you right now, even writing this, I’m holding back tears.

I made a profound shift that day in the way I show up and express my appreciation for others. It’s clear through imagining my death these things are important to me.

Rowena also asked me to think about what, if anything, I regret while imagining myself on my death bed.

Immediately I thought about a long-held desire to find my birth mother. I was adopted in California, a closed adoption state, which means my records are sealed and can only be released through prior approval from the birth mom.

There is no such approval in my file.

But knowing this was my regret, it became imperative that I do something about it. And so, I hired a private investigator who specializes in finding birth parents and lost connections.

I also went to a psychic who was pretty sure I would find her but felt no energy around my meeting with her.

Within three months, the private investigator found her name and contact information. I was stunned. It felt like a dream I’d had forever, and with one question “What would you regret not doing, Deanna?” I was motivated to accomplish that dream.

I wrote my birth mother one of the most deeply moving letters I’d ever written. (Who am I kidding, that’s a low bar because I haven’t written a letter in years!).

And I’ve never heard back from her. I have no idea what her life is like; I couldn’t find a single picture of her online. And that’s okay. The regret that motivated me was not doing what I could to find her and send her a letter of deep gratitude, and you guessed it, love.

What she did with the letter was up to her.

And so, as I wrap up this week’s blog post, I invite you to consider your own death bed. Who would you want to be there? What do you want to say to them? Is there anything that’s stopping you from doing that now?

And what would you regret not doing if the end of your life came sooner than you think? What’s stopping you from doing that now? What can you do to allow yourself to put your excuses aside and start moving in that direction? 

When we’re not conscious of death, we can’t fully embrace the gift of life.