“If all of us would make an all-out effort to contemplate our own death, to deal with our anxieties surrounding the concept of our death…perhaps there could be less destructiveness around us.” -Elizabeth Kübler-Ross
I think about death a lot.
I'm not a depressed, I'm also not a psychopath. And yet I think about myself dying pretty much everyday. Sometimes I think about it in a graphic, literal way, such as when I am driving in snowy weather or when I feel a pain in my side that alarms me, but most of the time I think of it more in remembering my inevitable reality and hoping my affairs are in order. Are there loose ends I haven't tied up? Is this really the life I want to live if I die tomorrow? Am I being a good person? Am I doing things right? Am I ready to die, right now? Why not?
This might come as a shock to you knowing that I am a 30 something year old healthy female and hypothetically, a lot of life in front of me. (God willing.) It might come as an even bigger shock that I am, in general, a happy, grateful, generous person, and that I attribute a lot of this to the fact that I think about death so much.
The Terror Management Theory is a theory that asserts that pretty much everything we do is motivated by our terrific fear of death. This is what pushes us to like some people and fear others, to act reckless or prudent, even whether or not we judge others harshly or are more forgiving. The Terror Management Theory seems to make the case that all in all, thinking about death makes us harsher, more close minded people. But I don't think that's the whole story.
Studies also show that people who regularly think about death are more likely to donate blood and be generous. I think this is such an accurate summary of what thinking about death can do for humankind if you choose to deal with it, instead of run from it. The Terror Management Theory does a good job of depicting what happens when one thinks about death and then attempts to run from it. But when you start to work towards accepting death, surrendering to it and being vulnerable to it, I believe that the exact opposite thing tends to happen.
You become more grateful for the little joys of life, like a sunset or the view of birds flying in the blue skies. You forgive those around you and let them know how much you love them. You talk to your Creator, in whatever way makes sense for you, and grapple with your human imperfection and God's immense ability to forgive. You become more generous. You stop worrying so much about your wealth, your job, your image, your status. You start to worry more about love, and showing compassion to those around you.
I think about death all the time, and I'm OK with that. Because I believe that a society that pushes death away, only to be dealt with at funerals and in near-death experiences, is a society that is pushing away life's greatest teacher. We are all going to die. How that realization plays a role in how you live, is up to you.