The final lesson in my crash course on dying is 10 suggestions on how to die. You can file these away until you need them.
1. Get things in order. Things you don’t want people to see? Destroy them. Things you want people to have? Give them away. (“Let the season of giving be yours and not that of your inheritors” — Gibran, The Prophet.) Pay debts. Make notes of what you’ve done. Make it easy for whomever you choose to take care of things after.
2. Make a will. Of things that weren’t given away, decide who gets what. Put it in writing. Make it legal. Choose an executor. Do you want to be cremated or buried? Decide what kind of funeral — if any — you want. Bette Davis said, “I don’t want donations made to any charities in my name. I want lots and lots of flowers!” If that’s how you feel about it, say so. In writing. And don’t forget to make it a “living will” if you don’t want extraordinary medical measures used to prolong your life.
3. Say goodbye. Goodbyes don’t all have to take place on your deathbed. You can say goodbye to people, and then see them every day for the next 50 years. Tell people what you would want them to know if you never saw them again. Give them the opportunity to do the same. Usually, it boils down to simply, “I love you.”
4. Don’t spend time with people you don’t want to spend time with. When people hear someone is dying, they all want to make a pilgrimage. Many of these people you haven’t seen in years and, if you lived another hundred years, would probably never see again. Say goodbye on the phone. Tell them you’re just not up to a visit. You don’t owe anyone anything.
5. Spend time alone. Reflect on your life. Make peace with it. Come to terms with it. Forgive yourself for everything. Learn what you can from what has happened, and let the rest go. Mourn the loss of your life. Come to a place of understanding and acceptance. You may be surprised how quickly you get there.
6. Enjoy yourself. Make a wish of all the movies you want to see or see again. Rent them. Watch them. Read the books you never got around to. Listen to your favorite music.
7. Relax. Sleep. Do nothing. Lie around. Recline. Goof off.
8. Pray. Listen. It is said people are closest to God at birth and at death. If you missed God the first time around, catch the deity on the return. Whatever inspirational or spiritual beliefs you hold dear, hold them even closer. You are being held close, too.
9. Enjoy each moment. Appreciate what is here and now. That is where eternity is found. You may only have a few here-and-now moments, but it’s a few more than most people will ever have.
10. When it’s time to go, go. Let go. Say one last goodbye and mean it. Say goodbye so completely that you’ll never want to come back, you’ll never even look back. All the good you take with you. The rest is goodbye and moving on.
Do most of these sound more like suggestions for living than for dying? That’s because they are. The best way to die is to live each moment fully. Then, when the time for death comes — be it next week or 50 years from now — it’s just another event in an already eventful life.