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Celebrate moments

March 29, 2018


Viewing death as unrelated to life, or antithetical to it, does a disservice to the days we have, because we don’t know how to value them, writes John Leland. 


"People are always telling us to live each day as if it’s our last, but few of us actually do this, for two good reasons: 


The first is that if you really thought today was your last day, you wouldn’t pay the utility bill or save for retirement.


The second reason is that we don’t like to think about death or dying, except as something that happens to other people.


"A few years ago I met a man named John Sorensen, who taught me how to think about death, and it changed my life. He was 91 and he missed his partner of 60 years, and every time I visited him he said he wanted to die. He wasn’t depressed or even sad – in fact, talking about dying always got him in a good mood. Wanting to die was the best reason to live.


John loved opera and he loved old movie musicals. Wanting to die meant noting that this might be the last time he heard Jonas Kaufmann sing Wagner or watched Gene Kelly singing in the rain. And this meant that he never took them for granted. They became more worthy of his attention. The same went for visits from friends. It’s a classic economy of scarcity. His days weren’t fleeting, they were supersaturated with chosen pleasures."


"Embrace that part of the end that exists in this moment, and then in the next. Feast fully on each brush with a stranger, each moment with friends, each kiss or caress. There’s a little bit of mortality in all of them. And that, I learned, is reason to be happy."



(John Leland is a reporter at 'The New York Times', and the author of books such as 'Happiness Is a Choice You Make'.)


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