The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time. Mark Twain

One of the things I love about writing this column each week is the way I find certain themes kind of following me around. Or maybe I’m following them, who knows but it forces me to really explore my thoughts on the ‘thing’ of the week.

The last week has been the subject of death. The death of Julia Gillard’s father, and the death of the popular John McCarthy. Ironically today I am in the amazing city of Rome, and everywhere you go here, there are historical stories of death.

Death often falls into different categories. The tragic death, the natural end of their life death, and then the legendary death.

We’ve all had to really embrace the feelings of tragic death with the passing of John McCarthy. It just never seems to make any sense when the world loses a man of his age, even though young people die every single day. Because most of us expect that we’re in this life until our 80’s, but a lot of us are not. I wonder though if we didn’t have this unrealistic idea of how long we’re here for if we’d live our lives any differently?

When a young person dies, the wrap sheet of things they could have done, won’t able to do now flashes up in our minds, and that’s heart breaking whether you knew the person or not.

What is far easier to get your head around, because it’s what we do expect as part of the life plan, is when we hear someone has lost their parent as Julia Gillard did recently. Although I’m sure the last thing she wanted was having her photograph taken in those first days after his death, I’m kind of glad we got to see her so raw.

And not because she’s normally tough, I just think it showed me and hopefully others that at the end of the day, at the end of someone you loves’ life, we’re all just humans getting on with whatever we feel we’re here for. When a chapter like a parent finishes, it stops us in our tracks and reminds us that life isn’t something to take for granted. Life isn’t always a given. As they say, we’re all on borrowed time.

I remember my mother telling me when her father died how angry and hurt she was that everyone seemed to go on as normal weeks after his death. Although he was a hugely popular man, with over 700 hundred people turning up to his funeral, the world kept turning after many paid tribute. But not so much for mum.

I’m not sure if it was before or after my much loved Nana died about 15 years ago but I decided that when it comes to family, certainly my parents I wanted to always try and rise above pointless issues. The way I saw it, and again this is that old presuming I’ll be around after they go, but if something happened to them before the expected time I don’t want to live with any regrets. In a less than poetic way of thinking, I don’t want to be left rotting in ‘what ifs’.

I think at some point in our lives, it’s about trying to apply sooner rather than later, the concept of giving up the fight and the letting go of your opinion to what’s fair.

And then the bucket list. Why do so many of us come up with the things to do before I die when we get closer to the expected time we’re going to die? Why not just have a constant bucket list on the go? Because the reality of life is that every day is an extra one you may not have had.

Putting off telling someone you love them because you can’t push past the awkwardness of saying it just isn’t going to cut it if they go and you never got there.

The topic of death shouldn’t just be contemplated in the times that it’s in your face. It should really be the framework of how we live each day.


9 thoughts on “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time. Mark Twain

  1. Subject: Making the most of our borrowed time article

    Message Body:
    Hello Amber, thank you so much for your article today…. I never read the paper, on the rare occasion that I do, there is always something that furthers my knowledge & understanding.
    My Dad passed away last year & I miss him like crazy. He was an amazing man that gave me unconditional love & in return I also gave that to him. I have nothing that I regret, all was clear & understanding between us. We asked many questions of each other which simply was amazing, considering he was from an era of “seen but not heard”. My awareness of living has changed immensely, for the better, still so soon to walk everyday without the grieving. It’s a part of it …. Many people do not understand how this has affected me, I don’t expect them to, although many people are understanding & appreciating the life they have through me sharing my experience. I thank those people for being aware of there own journey in this life they have.
    Warm Regards,Robyn

  2. Hello lovely Robyn,

    Thank you so much for your gorgeous letter. I am of course sorry to hear of the passing of your beautiful dad but I am so pleased to hear how you handled your relationship while he was on earth and subsequently your reflection of the memories you have. And you’ll always have. I’m currently in Italy with my mother and I just read her my column, and your letter. She said “wow, that’s powerful” And it is. It’s so rare that people handle the during, and after so well as you have. And I hope so am I. We can get so caught up in the issues, and I do understand that, I’m just grateful to that inner voice of mine that eventually said “it’s time to heal. it’s time mend before it’s too late” There is nothing that I’m more grateful for to god or spirit, that I worked that out before getting too consumed with my list of things i couldn’t let go. I just cannot imagine the torture of losing someone you love and hating yourself that you didn’t just make things right. Or just let the love flow without the baggage shutting it down.

    I do appreciate you taking the time to find me and write to me.

    Your father as you no doubt already know, would be proud of all parts of you. Including you reaching out after reading my column.

    Lots of love for your beauty.


  3. Beautifully written Dear Amber, and a truly thought provoking story. My parents, as you may know passed within 6 months of each other 24 years ago. It was difficult as we were living in Perth and they of course were in Cape Town. As saddened as I was, I remember thinking that I could never question God/Universe for the reasons why, but having the belief that they would always be around in Spirit. I loved both my Mommy and Daddy dearly and think about them everyday still. I love the Buddist philosphy of “Impermanence”, to not sweat the small stuff, and to live each day as though it is your last. Having just had the all clear from my recent challenge with Breast Cancer, I am now in remission and can truly say that I am doing just that.

    Thank you for sharing your powerful words of Wisdom Amber.

    Lots of Love and stuff


  4. Well my lovely May, you most certainly are a living breathing example of how to embrace life every day and not take death for an answer. It’s interesting isn’t it how some people come out the right side of cancer and even say it was a blessing for how it re-trained them to view life. The life that some people have after cancer is often much better than before. I do like that word IMPERMANENCE….. Lots of love to you May. Speak to you soon.xx

  5. Hello Amber,
    Thank you for replying & taking the time. Having your feed back is valuable to me, especially because you are away at the moment.
    Thank you also to your Mum, for having awareness. Its so heart lifting to hear people’s responses when they see things as they are, not what they make it to be.
    You’re absolutely right about my dad, in the persepective that he would have loved that I responded to your article. In his own humorous way he wouldn’t have believed me, then after me telling him that I actually did, he’d have that look that only a daughter would see as being proud & amazed at the things that don’t hold be back …. The unconditional love …. It’s always present when I think of him.
    One day in the future, I would really love to meet you …. It’s wonderful to have open minded conversations with like minded people. If that works for you ….
    Enjoy the time & atmosphere with your mum, Italy is an amazing place to share with loved ones
    Warm Regards, Robyn x

    “We did not inherit the earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children”. (Navajo saying)
    “Be the change you want to see in the world”.
    Love & Peace to you 🙂

  6. amara Kowalski, Charlotte Guy and 2 others like this.

    Tamara Kowalski ♥ Loved this
    4 hours ago · Like

  7. Date: 9/19/2012
    Subject: hi
    hi amber,

    how are you? another good read in this weeks advertiser about the bucket list. Was thinking what you said about the bucket list. Partly sums up what i will be doing in bit over a year. I will work on a bucket which has holes at the bottom since not everything will be achieved on the list due to variety of factors. There’s no one set path for life and you never completely know the path ahead and whether it will stop suddenly.

    Now if you were ever in adelaide, be nice to catch up for a chat. I’m sure you have a very busy life style though. I would need a heads up since i live 200k out from adelaide on the farm.

    anyway, have a great day and keep up the good work 🙂

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