In Latin, the term pretiosis means ‘of great value’.
The sun peaks above the mountain, a glowing orb pregnant with possibility, and I am reminded that this day, like every day, is pretiosis. I watch birds play in the cottonwoods and bees flitting among flowering bushes, and I understand what they do not. They are transients of nature. I am too because I live. The mountains I have climbed, rivers fished, down to the smallest bits of earth underfoot change with each passing day and bear witness to the inevitable. All living things exit this realm just as new arrivals make song with the dawn.
We shun thoughts of life’s finiteness. It is true (whether you believe in an afterlife or not) that life as it is known here is temporary. We’re not comfortable contemplating what that means in terms of the day-to-day grind. We go on with our get-and-give, get-and-give…letting the worries, boredoms, tasks and responsibilities dominate the day so that once a peaceful moment finally arrives, we want to numbly take it in as a reward for all our race running. We live for the weekend…for that vacation…for some future promise. But we’re not promised tomorrow, and we don’t want to acknowledge that we know, deep down, the race has an end. We know it nonetheless, and it causes a deep sense of urgency to matter.
It is the need to matter that drives negative perceptions of death. We tend to wander in a fog of false invincibility until we are surprised by it. Death holds up a mirror and says, “No, no, not true, my dear. See? Nothing stays the same”. All the mundane redundancies of life become bitter pills to swallow. Death has the power to confront us with wasted time and regrets. We are afraid of forgetting, or worse, being forgotten. We rail against its truth because we are self-important. We don’t want to fade into obscurity, but we recognize obscurity is promised with the passage of time.
Death can make life seem so small and insignificant.
But tears shed for death tell a different story. They stand in violent opposition to the notion that life is small and insignificant. There is merit in slowing down to seriously contemplate the finite nature of life. Doing so nurtures in us a greater appreciation for life in general and intensifies the introspective moments of it. Never underestimate the power of touch, a kind word or smile to reorganize the world. It matters, being present in the millions of tiny moments life grants us. This is what death does; it slows us down and illuminates what matters most. In our fear we fail to apprehend the transformative beauty of what death accomplishes. If anything death is a teacher, revealing with great clarity the insignificance of the material, and the weighty significance of time and love.
When we are forced to say goodbye something remarkable happens. The colors of life’s tapestry defy the boundaries of the known world to grow richer and more vibrant than ever. Suddenly dull browns shift to rich red and black turns to deep violet. An average blue sky now dawns bright turquoise. Experiences and stories, every touch, breath, and idiosyncrasy are transformed into precious pearls of light and celebration. Suddenly, defiantly, life matters. Each introspective moment is made new and we see that what we perceived as inertia never actually stopped moving. We appreciate kindness more and see the significance of little things. When we are forced to say goodbye we are motivated to a renewed sense of profound appreciation and gratitude for the uniqueness of our experiences and the love we share.
If there is any doubt in the truth of death it might be useful to turn it on its head. What if at the time of our death we were given a choice: a brand new life, a new start, but in return you must give back your previous life as though it never existed. All the people, experiences, love, hate, laughter, tears, lessons learned…it all gets wiped away. You never lived. Would you do it? I think most of us would answer no because we recognize life is pretiosis. Regardless, the answer, yes or no, will speak volumes about the life currently being lived and may provide one with either a greater sense of appreciation, or a humble appeal for direction.
The most intimate moments of any human life are birth and death.
The very nature of each is utterly remarkable. As soon as a human being enters this world their personality and character (good and bad) forge ripples in a greater, never-ending pond. Death ensures those ripples are transformed to carry on a deeply meaningful, and lasting impact. We matter, and tears stand in testimony. Uniquely, in ways only we can, we usher in change that impacts and shapes the world. One-of-a-kind in every case, we live our choices, experience joy and sadness and everything in between, get-and-give, and venture outside of the known world. We are remarkable, and our life and death give profound meaning to nature’s simple but beautiful, monotonous churning.
Let’s appreciate the gifts of life and death as part of the same journey and cherish the blessed gift of memory. Live fearlessly knowing every life lived matters because it is, it was, and will be immortalized in the collective lasting legacy of human feeling, sentiment, and experience.
We will rock on, Dear Reader.