You Can’t Cheat Death

Person on bench in shadowAs the old saying goes, only two things in life are certain: death and taxes. Today is Tax Day in the U.S., so, well, there you go.

As for death, though, one North Carolina hospital is telling its potential customers that they can “cheat death.” Besides the inevitable billboards and flyers that go along with a corporate ad campaign, the hospital plans to partner with area restaurants to offer Cheat Death menus and local gyms to offer Cheat Death workouts. They’ll even have a social media campaign offering tips on how to cheat death.

I suppose I understand the desire of the powers that be to make a splash and get people talking about their hospital, but I must say that I am offended by this slogan. I also think that it sends the entirely wrong message.

Americans already detest thinking about death. We don’t even like thinking about sick people most of the time. Instead, we eat our superfoods and take our vitamins and run our marathons in the belief that we can put off aging and death, maybe forever.

The reality is that illness and death are just a part of life.

By denying death, we end up hurting people, by imploring our friends and family to keep fighting for life when it’s time to let go, or by being so uncomfortable that we cannot be there to comfort those who are grieving.

All of us will die one day, but that doesn’t mean death has to be scary or painful or ugly. As a hospice music therapist, I am part of a treatment team that helps people feel comfortable and secure at the end of life.

Endings can be beautiful, too.

In trying to think of a song or musical experience to bring another level of understanding to this idea, I thought of the song “Fix You.” Coldplay’s lyrics are very much open to interpretation, and I won’t attempt to say they mean anything specific about death or life or relationships.

Instead, I’ll simply offer this clip from the movie “Young@Heart,” about a chorus of older adults who sing contemporary music. In this clip, soloist Fred Knittle performs “Fix You” just a short time after the death of his friend Bob Salvini, the man who was supposed to sing it with him as a duet.

We can’t cheat death, but we can find the beauty at the end of life and cherish the moments we have together in the meantime.

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6 thoughts on “You Can’t Cheat Death

  1. Ann Becker-Schutte (@DrBeckerSchutte) says:

    Rachelle,

    Thanks so much for your piece. I also have a bad reaction to the “cheat death” campaign. I think that encouraging people to avoid considering & discussing dying is not a gift. Remembering that we all die is one of the ways that we are encouraged and challenged to remain present in our lives–to cherish the gift of living. I appreciate your thoughtful perspective.

    Warmly,
    Ann

  2. Colleen Arnold, PhDC says:

    Oh my goodness, that clip made me cry. I totally agree. My dissertation was based on the idea that we do terminally ill children a disservice if we pretend they’re not going to die. And that was based on my mother’s oncologist who refused to be honest with her about her lung cancer. Death is an important part of life and it should be honored, not avoided.

  3. Erin Lunde, MT-BC says:

    Rachelle, such a great post. I love that “endings can be beautiful, too.” I remember going to “Young @ Heart” as a class when I was doing my coursework. I think of that movie so often!

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