It’s somewhere in the middle that one realises the ending matters more than the beginning. Whether it’s a story, a movie, a season, a race, a relationship or life in general, it’s the ending that matters. It’s to this end that we should strive for a life that matters.
Buddha said that in the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.
To put matters in perspective, consider this: In the final days of life, what would you want? Would you want to hug the trophies, medals or awards you won? Would you want to be helped to sit in the luxury car in the garage? Would you find comfort in having another look at your bank statement? Or would you want your near and dear ones by your side as you take leave that one last time? That’s a happy ending to a life well lived. A life invested in people is a life that matters.
In his book, ‘Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters In The End’, surgeon of Indian origin practising in the US, Atul Gawande, writes that the ultimate goal is not a good death but a good life, all the way till the very end. Yet, medical science that has otherwise alleviated suffering tends to do just the opposite when it comes to the inescapable realities of aging and death.
When life reaches a terminal stage, nobody seems to lend the patient a patient ear. The family rushes him to hospital where the best of doctors and nurses push him straight into the intensive care unit in a bid to prolong a life that is set to call it quits. Private hospitals are quick to latch on to the prospective client, while government ones find yet another case. Pipes and tubes are promptly fitted as the poor patient stares at masked strangers fussing over him, hoping his dignity is left intact. Silent tears roll down his cheeks when loved ones leave the sterile hospital environs satisfied that he is being well cared for. All pleas to be taken home are mistaken for childlike tantrum or senile behaviour. It’s not that the family doesn’t suffer the agony. Members pace the cold hospital corridors, hoping everything will become ‘normal’. But isn’t death normal? The mind knows but the heart won’t listen. Perhaps, it’s then that the family should introspect and empathise.
What would you have done if you knew your time was up? Wouldn’t you want to be with your near and dear ones in the comfort of home, enjoying a plate of gol-gappas or is it ice-cream? Wouldn’t you want to go smiling once and for all? Wouldn’t you prefer a graceful exit to a heartless one via the hospital ventilator?
At the end of life, let’s be honest and humane. Living a life that matters is not one by accident, it’s by choice.
Signing off should also be one that is respected. A happy ending to a life well lived. firstname.lastname@example.org