All right, have a seat. I’m about to tackle a subject our kind notoriously hates to discuss (including, yours truly!). Actually, we avoid it like the plague. Yes, even though it is right in front of our face or, according to Carlos Castaneda, over our left shoulder.

Can you guess what it is?

Drum roll, please … death.

Truth be told, the last time I paid my respects to death was when I was 19 and read Castaneda’s “Journey to Ixtlan.” I remember being blown away by how he pinned the tail on our donkey for being brilliantly duh-mb about death instead of using it to live better.

If you haven’t read any Castaneda about death and time, you should. See for yourself:

“For me the world is weird because it is stupendous, awesome, mysterious, unfathomable; my interest has been to convince you that you must assume responsibility for being here, in this marvelous world, in this marvelous desert, in this marvelous time. I want to convince you that you must learn to make every act count, since you are going to be here for only a short while, in fact, too short for witnessing all the marvels of it.”  —Carlos Castaneda

And then I did what any precocious 19-year-old human does best: Ignore it.

It turns out, I’m not alone. I can’t tell you how many clients I have in their 30s with aging parents who do not have an end-of-life plan and who are now going to end up in a retirement home or living with one of their kids.

But do I have a plan myself? Nope. Have I sat down with my parents and discussed their plans? Nope. Do I simply trust my dad to be reasonable and smart because the last thing he’d ever want is to be is a burden? Uh-huh.

Uh-oh is more like it.

Given that death is unavoidable, the amount of time you and I play ostrich about it is impressive, right? I mean, the amount of time we plan around birth versus the amount we plan around/for death should rattle us, no?

But does it?

I’m only starting to work on it, myself. I remember going home after I met this great, rightfully rattled man, the CEO and president of Harmony Insurance, whose very mission is to educate, guide and inspire clients to make important decisions with respect to the protection, preservation and transfer of their life’s work. I interviewed him about why we don’t dream past retirement, why we don’t face our own death, and why we don’t ensure that our loved ones (or ourselves) have a plan. And besides simply sending my clients to talk to him, which I do, I decided to put my big girl pants on and go home and discuss the D-word (denial!) with my husband, David.

Turns out, we do have life insurance. Whew. But death insurance? Nope.

Which got me thinking some more, besides simply wondering who the heck is going to get stuck with the job of cleaning out my basement. Truth is, if I thought WE were mature enough to handle this area of life––its end––shouldn’t I include it in the 12 Areas of Life assignment I give each and every one of my clients?

If you aren’t familiar with the assignment, it’s the one where I have you write out, in full detail, what your highest ideal/dream is in every area of your life, from the obvious areas like love, career, wealth and health to the areas most of us are more oblivious to, like community, contribution, spirituality and fun.

So, yes, if I had my druthers, I’d have us get our heads out of the sand and make death the 13th (how perfect) area of your life that I’d have you design (die-sign?).

And what would I have you do first? I’d have you answer the following eye-opening questions about what you want to resolve or make happen in your life, honestly. (The below are in no particular order of importance because they are all of equal importance.)

  • Who would be OK with your death?
  • Who would be left unresolved?
  • What would be unresolved?
  • What do you wish you would have said or done differently?
  • What are you tolerating?
  • What would you change right now if you had one more week, one more month, one more year, etc.?
  • Apologies owed (to or from you)?
  • Fears?
  • Reconciliations with family, friends, past loves?
  • What do you want to accomplish before you die?
  • Any regrets?
  • Anything unfinished?
  • Finances you need to deal with?
  • Anything you need to forgive yourself for?
  • Secrets or lies you are (or were but now aren’t) going to the grave with?

Still breathing? Then I’d have you go through your answers and rate your list from one to 10, one being you’re going to continue to consciously ignore it and 10 being you’re going to deal with it now, as if it’s a life and death matter.

Because it is.

And for any answer that you rated yourself under a five, see whether you can at least admit that it’s either your inner chicken that’s ruling the roost or your inner brat holding its breath. And when you’re ready, try picking one item off your list and dealing with it. Hell, take on one a week. Come on, what have you got to lose?

Your superstition?


Seems it’s not just Castaneda who had something to say about our relationship (or lack thereof) with time and death, but Stevie Wonder, too.  And, well, superstition ain’t the way!

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Photo credit: NeONBRAND, Unsplash