The intimate meaning and value of aging and death can be engendered in the young. Most children have a grandparent or an auntie or uncle they can get to know better. Many children know of someone who has died. But how we talk about old age, dying and death with young people can make a profound difference in their lives.
The writer understands the sensitivity of the subject and respects the views and sentiments of others. These views come out of the personal contemplation and research of the whole of the human journey by the writer as a fellow member of the human tribe.
Many educators find themselves at a loss when it comes to talking about death with a classroom of very open, curious and eager to learn 10 year olds, for instance. Death is as much a part of the journey of life as is birth, family, sex, friendship, marriage, purpose, ethics, citizenship, science, math, going to school! Yet many people feel awkward or ill-equipped to deal with the subject in a relevant and significant, non-judgmental way. Why is that, do you suppose? Perhaps it is a reflection of a collective psyche that generally reserves dealing with ‘death’ to the priest or rabbi, the doctor, the hospice care giver or ‘next of kin’. No matter what a person’s personal beliefs are, we all will one day… die. So what are ways for educators to talk about death to children that do not offend creed or morality, but rather bring comfort, value and meaning to the subject?
The song “Older Better” is a universal encouragement to ‘age well’, to ‘get older better’, to ‘die well’ and therefore to live well no matter what age you are!
It says “some people change as they get older, some people stay the same”. Nonetheless “we all grow older, and some grow older and older. And we want everyone to grow older better!”
Is that not a universal sentiment? Isn’t one of the goals of life to live a meaningful and purposeful life, giving valued service in some way? Happiness cannot be measured in material wealth. True happiness is measured in other ways, other kinds of “wealth”. There are studies that have shown for example, that the more altruistic and egalitarian a society is, the greater its well-being and longevity!
To ‘die well’ is a sentiment shared and engendered in people of many indigenous, deeply rooted cultures on our planet. To die well may even carry profound meaning regarding the natural threshold or gate that death is. It is simply not meant to be feared. It may be unknown yes, but the unknown is not meant to be feared. Is it not near to the heart of humanity to help each other to live our lives so that we may each, in our time, die well?
“We want everyone to grow older better, yes we want every one to get older better…for when their day comes… for the day their day comes!”