The Art of Living When You’re Dying: 9 Insights from a Terminal Cancer Patient
What would you do if you knew you had a short time to live? Panic? Grieve? Completely shut down? If you’re like most people, learning that your days are numbered would stop you in your tracks and cause substantial strife and fear. Sure, it’s a normal response, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right one.
“While the inclination to fall apart in the face of certain death is very understandable, it isn’t the best solution for your soul,” says David Solomon, author of the new book The Dead Saints Chronicles: A Zen Journey Through the Christian Afterlife (Dead Saints Media, April 2016). “Even though nobody wants to leave the party early, there is a wealth of blessings for those willing to take advantage of the short time they have left. And if you think about it, we all have just a moment in time here anyway.”
When Solomon—who is an expert in near-death experiences, world religion, dream prophecy, and Biblical interpretation—discovered that he had a rare form of terminal brain cancer, his reaction was unique indeed. Instead of mourning his diagnosis, he’s using his time to accomplish his life’s mission: completing his book series and sharing the insights from his NDE research with the world.
According to Solomon, there are countless opportunities to live life fully and experience game-changing revelations—whether you’re dying or not. The bottom line: Don’t wait until it’s too late to live the life you want. And most of all, stop being afraid of what comes next after death, because thousands of NDE accounts attest that death is only the beginning, not the end. Read on for encouraging insights and tips to help you live every day as if it’s your last.
>> Know that death really isn’t the end.
Near-death experiences (NDEs) support the belief that “death” as we view it is not actually the end of us. Solomon studied over 5,000 NDE accounts while researching The Dead Saints Chronicles and one theme became clear: The Afterlife is real.
Solomon concludes that your earthly paths reflect only one facet of your soul’s eternal journey. He describes the body as a coat that we remove in the Afterlife prior to resuming our “glorious form.” The certainty that “death” is a lie gives everyone the freedom to live courageously and without fear.
>> Make peace with the people in your life.
“Terminal illness puts your life into extra-sharp focus,” says Solomon. “Suddenly you are able to see the futile pettiness of feuds among family and friends. Before it is too late, ask yourself whether you feel at peace with past and present grudges. The answer is almost always no. Forgive today, because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed for anyone.”
Ask yourself whether you would be content with your relationships if you died today. If your answer is no, resolve to make amends or repair the relationships that need work. This will give you a sense of peace that can’t be replicated.
>> Figure out what you are on Earth to do, and then go do it.
Nothing gets you in gear to achieve a goal like the ultimate deadline. In the face of illness, don’t just lie in bed and cry. Get out and live your passion today. Write the book you’ve always imagined. Take the trip you dream of. Change your career. Do it now.
“If you are lucky enough to be healthy, make a bucket list and act on your goals starting today,” advises Solomon. “Many people have regrets later on and wish they had their youth and their health back so they could really live. Make sure that you are really living each and every day of your life.”
>> Practice being “present” so you get the most out of every minute.
“It is impossible to experience fear and disappointment while living in the present,” Solomon insists. “However, if you constantly allow your mind to wander from the past to the future, you are as good as dead because you are never really living in the moment.”
When you notice yourself straying from the present, gently shift your focus back to the now. This is a great strategy to try when you find yourself worrying about things you can’t control. Get back to the present pronto and see how much better you feel.
>> Explore prayer and meditation to get the guidance and reassurance you crave.
In times of crisis, your spiritual routine can be a tremendous comfort to you, Solomon asserts. Spend some time each day in prayer or meditation. It will become an invaluable practice that you will soon come to rely on.
You can have a spiritual practice like this even if you’re not particularly religious. (Everyone has a soul and can connect to some level of spirituality!) Before you begin each day, silently state your intention to receive comfort and peace from your spiritual Source and allow yourself to experience divine guidance.
>> Understand that your hardships happen so you can learn.
NDE accounts have convinced David Solomon that we are here on Earth to face the lessons our souls are slated to learn. He calls this education “Earth University” and explains that everyone is on their own learning path throughout life.
Remember that there is a spiritual lesson associated with everything that happens to you, good or bad. This is comforting news for people who find themselves suffering. Know that nothing happens by accident, including pain. If you are experiencing illness, grief, poverty, or sadness, ask yourself whether you are facing the lesson at hand.
>> Really savor life’s simple pleasures.
Take time out of your day to enjoy the taste of delicious food and perhaps a glass of good wine. If you have a moment of pure silence, tune into that moment so you really experience it. Get a massage and make a point of staying present throughout.
“Life is abundant with gifts of indescribable beauty,” says Solomon. “The more you practice alertness and experience life happening now, the more you will be able to appreciate the good parts of life—because you are paying attention to them.”
>> Practice gratitude daily.
It can be difficult to focus on what you are grateful for during times of great adversity, but doing so really pays off through your day-to-day experiences. Be grateful for every day and watch how that gratitude expands and improves your time here on Earth.
Each day, spend a few moments feeling pure gratitude for your life. Think of the gifts you have: good family and friends, a loving pet, the beautiful view from your back porch. This exercise will bring you plenty of joy, even on “bad” days.
>> Weave random acts of kindness into the fabric of your life.
One of the best, easiest ways to lessen your own pain (whether you are sick or just having a hard time right now) is to shift your attention toward others. This is why it feels so good to volunteer or do charity work. There is always someone else who could benefit from your kindness and your time.
“Practicing kindness is a real, actionable way to take the focus off of your own suffering and comes as a welcome distraction,” Solomon adds. “By helping others in need—even if you just smile at strangers or give a kind word to the people you encounter daily—you will find that your own happiness increases and any suffering you feel becomes more bearable.”
“Don’t wait until death is knocking to face life with wholehearted enthusiasm,” concludes Solomon. “There is beauty and purpose hidden in everything that happens to us in the classroom of our lives. We are here for such a brief time. Everyone, young and old, should embrace life as if each day is the last. By doing so, you will find your purpose and can leave this Earth knowing you have fulfilled it.”
By David Solomon, a Christian minister and the author of The Dead Saints Chronicles: A Zen Journey Through the Christian Afterlife.