Why I believe in celebrating life instead of mourning death

Sir Terry Pratchett, April 1948-March 12th 2015
Sir Terry Pratchett, April 1948-March 12th 2015

Mourning someone we care about is natural, and we have to experience it to work through it, but our eventual goal should be to celebrate life instead of mourning death.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot since Sir Terry Pratchett, one of my favourite authors, passed away last week. His long term struggle with Alzheimers was no secret, and although his death was premature and I do believe the world has lost one of its greatest minds, he died with dignity in his own home–not something a lot of Alzheimers patients get to do.

He also left behind a legacy of more than 70 books, most of them in the hilarious and yet deeply powerful Discworld series. His books inspired millions of readers across several generations. I don’t know anyone who picked up a Discworld novel and didn’t enjoy it–and I’ve convinced numerous people to pick up his books over the years.

I’ve read 10 of the Discworld novels, but I still have lots of Terry Pratchett to discover and plenty of world to explore, and I’m extremely grateful for that. Terry Pratchett himself is gone, but his extraordinary body of work remains for us all to enjoy.

Most people don’t leave behind that kind of legacy–even I’m not sure I have 70 books in me–but I still believe it’s important to focus on celebrating life instead of mourning death. The people we’ve lost might not have been successful authors and artists with a massive creative legacy, but everybody leaves something worth celebrating behind. There is something worth celebrating in every life.

Acknowledging death is important, but death–and the struggle of dealing with a long term illness–shouldn’t be the thing we remember about our loved ones. We should remember their lives, their smiles, their hugs and their accomplishments. The things that made you love them in the first place.

For this reason, I celebrate my dad’s birthday every year. I’m normally vegetarian, but on my dad’s birthday, I get a meal I would have eaten with him–usually a chicken dish from Swiss Chalet. Some years I also go to the movies, if there’s one he would have liked in theaters. Otherwise I go home and watch shows we used to watch together online. Either way, I spend the day celebrating his life, not cooped up in my house mourning his death.

Off the top of my head I don’t know Terry Pratchett’s birthday, but I do know how to celebrate his life: by reading his books whenever I have the opportunity and cherishing every one.

Death is part of life, the price we pay for the miracle of being born, the miracle of life on this planet. Everyone dies sooner or later, and it’s entirely possible to find yourself mourning forever, but a life spent mourning isn’t a life spent moving forward.

Choose to celebrate the lives of the people you’ve lost instead of mourning their deaths. If they made you happy during their lives, focusing on the happy memories is the best way to honour them when they’re gone.

Do you celebrate the lives of people you’ve lost? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

4 thoughts on “Why I believe in celebrating life instead of mourning death

  • My dad passed 15 years ago and I do miss him but the memories are great. He gave me so much to build a life on. Now my mother took about a year to mourn his loss. A musician that went to high school with me created a deep sadness with everyone because in a way his passing was the passing of a part of our youth into old memories.
    Grief is individual but that focus on what was great is indeed a salve for the soul.

    • dlgunn

      Thanks for sharing your story. I recently lost a friend for the first time and it certainly did feel like part of my youth slipping away. I hadn’t even seen the friend in over a year, but his loss still hit me like a ton of bricks.

      Focusing on what made the people I’ve lost great has also inspired me to do great things as often as I can–after all, I want to leave something great behind for the people who love me to remember when I am gone.

  • My dad loved nonfiction books. When he died, my mom gave them to me and my oldest son who spend so much time with my dad talking about the books they both enjoyed. I keep those my dad’s book on a shelf in my office along with some things he bought for me in his travels.

    • dlgunn

      That’s awesome! I don’t have too many things from my dad, but each one has its own cherished place in my house and my heart.

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