Life Lessons Learned From Death
March 30, 2017
Life Lessons Learned From Death

by Judith Ingalsbe

Death conjures up many images, and let's face it, none are very pleasant. Words like condolences, loss, and grief come to mind. Death also unavoidably includes two uncomfortable elements - finality and lack of control. The completeness of death renders circumstances unchangeable. Equally as unnerving is the painful reality we have no choice in the situation.

However, death is an interesting transition, much like birth, where spiritual elements are almost tangible and we have the opportunity to experience an intimacy with Heaven. The process of dying is really quite beautiful, taking place on a different realm than living. My father recently passed away after a twelve year battle with Alzheimer's disease. The final days of his life revealed these beautiful lessons.

  1. Life is Finite. It sounds obvious, but when life is examined, we seem to have an unspoken belief in somehow having control over our duration on Earth. If we consume healthy foods, exercise faithfully, and practice safe habits, surely our time will be extended. The fact is, our days are unavoidably numbered.

    If we truly understood the limit to our days, how might we live differently? Imagine a finite number of marbles in a jar, each representing a day on Earth, disappearing daily as that time was spent. This tangible representation would, no doubt, be a powerful reminder to make the most of every day.

  2. Community is Essential. Compassion has never touched me more deeply than did the heartfelt concern of those caring for my father in his final days. The voice of compassion is universal, offering a symphony of understanding and support.

    Even those residing in memory care sensed my father's passing and stopped by his room to pat his shoulder and offer unspoken condolences. As I experienced this gift, I determined, although I would not advise either, living in seclusion would be easier than dying alone.

  3. Each Life Holds Purpose. My father served as patriarch of our family until his final breath. Despite the illness which affected him for over a decade, his presence exuded wisdom and protection. Regardless of circumstances, each of us has a contribution to make until our very last breath.

    Death teaches us there is purpose in life. We are placed on this Earth at this time to accomplish meaningful assignments. Prayer is the means by which Heaven has the opportunity to communicate direction to us. Remembering life is finite is a convincing reminder time must not be wasted.

  4. The Power of Communication. Life is experienced through the senses, but as the body fails, these abilities decline. Despite this reality, the need to communicate one's feelings remains. As regular means of communication are stripped away, human need finds a way to relate.

    We soon realize how much can be expressed in a smile, a sound, or a touch. One of my father's most powerful connections during his final days was the slight movement of his head as he followed the sound of his granddaughter's voice.

  5. What is Truly Important.  A beautiful truth is ultimately discovered in the final steps of life. There is a realization that most things perceived as problems simply are not important. We learn what an incredible waste of time petty thoughts, grudges, and worries have been.

    Even at the end of a lengthy disease, there is an undeniable feeling that we have not had enough time. It is here where we discover the vast amount of time which has been wasted on unimportant matters. It is not possessions, but rather relationships with family and friends, which leave us yearning for more.

Thankfully, we do not have to wait for death to apply these lessons to life. May we learn to live each day as if it were our last and truly appreciate the gift of life we have been given. 

Judith Ingalsbe is passionate about bringing understanding to those experiencing the effects of dementia. She will be joining advocates in Washington D.C. again this year to secure funding for research and HOPE for those affected. Judith has gleaned over a decade of caregiving experience with her parents, who were both diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and shares these insights in Stone Benches: Understanding the Invisible Footprints of Dementia. For more information visit Permission granted for use on  

Posted by Staff at 8:07 PM