(This “ask me anything” answer is in response to a class of young college students’ questions.)
How are you preparing yourself?
At first I had to “put my affairs in order,” which means writing or updating a will (which should have been done way before this!), making sure my kids would be taken care of should they need help, appointing someone to make decisions for me in case of incapacity (if I become unconscious or of unsound mind), and generally making sure things like bills will be paid while I’m sick and my things given away. All that is actually a lot of work, so it’s good to always be prepared—death can strike at any time!
I also wanted to spend time with all the people who are important to me and make sure that they all know how much I love and appreciate them. It’s also important to me that they have the opportunity to say what they need to say to me and aren’t left with any regrets or unresolved issues that concern me.
I have been lucky to still have more time once those things were taken care of. So since then I have been reading and thinking and writing about this process of dying, trying to make sure I understand it as fully as possible and am ready and completely at peace. More recently an important part of that has been daily meditation, an hour long. Besides that, my preparation involves giving as much as I can and writing for whoever might value what I have to share. I also try to simply enjoy life in the moment!
Does not knowing when you are going to die make it harder or easier?
I know I’m going to die pretty soon, but I have no idea when exactly. It’s kind of the same as for everyone, only on a very short timeline. It does make planning hard, which is a frustration not just for me but for those close to me as well, especially when they want to make travel plans. I don’t know if I have time for just a few urgent or shorter things or for bigger projects, like writing a book.
Lately I’ve been feeling increasingly well, so it feels like dying is getting further away rather than closer as expected. That’s confusing in a new weird way. The better I feel the more I want to make plans for the future, so I have to keep reminding myself I don’t have much future and not less myself fantasize about living another fifty years!