Between Birth & Death

I need a moment to compose my thoughts before we get started. This post marks a turning point in the evolution of who I am as a man, so it’s important that I try not to screw it up…

There are certain topics that cause a writer a degree of apprehension whenever he (or she) approaches them. Trying to articulate how these concepts, realities, or situations alter your perceptions, or define who you are can be daunting.  For me personally, I have always struggled to broach the subject of death. I have battled against anxiety and depression in the past, and openly acknowledging that I will eventually die used to leave me feeling petrified.

Which explains why it has been a few months since we last talked about death here at The Renegade Press.

In that time, my life has changed more than I ever imagined possible.  I’m not the man that I once was. I’m not ruled by a fear of death, or the melancholy feeling of failure. I hit rock bottom. I had my face stamped into the dirt, and my humility exposed to the world. I lost something amazing, and I crumbled. Badly. But in my lowest moments I learned that the depths of my own fortitude are endless. I beat depression, let go of my ego, and now I’m learning how to walk after a lifetime of forcing myself to crawl.

Alright. I think I’m good. Let’s do this…

I was recently told that the only certainty in life is death. At the time, I viewed the idea as a pessimistic way to look at the world. But the more that I have allowed myself to consider this notion in relation to my own life, the more I am beginning to realise that there is some truth in the sentiment. It may sound incredibly macabre to view the foundations of our reality as so fractured and unstable that our inevitable demise is the only solid platform which we have at our disposal to build a life upon. But the truth is that understanding our own humanity, and the inescapability of death allows us to grow, to be happy, and to cherish the time that we have on this earth.

Oh, yes. This is a post about death; but it comes with a twist. It’s not a depressive, or self-depreciating diatribe oozing with anxiety and fear. Instead, it’s a big fucking swing at complacency; and a way for me to stand up, beat my chest and say that I’m not afraid of dying anymore.

As a society, we continuously remind ourselves of the fragility of the human existence. We sit glued to television screens, or stream endless content when tragedy befalls our fellow man or woman. We seemingly revelling in the idea that a life can be dramatically altered, or taken away in an instant. When a loved one passes, we console one another with observations about the fragility of life, and the preciousness of the gift that we have been given. Yet, despite openly acknowledging the metamorphic nature of our existence, we still allow ourselves to try and build upon the shifting foundations of space and time, assuming certainty where there is none.


The only certainty in life is death. So, rather than chasing dreams that can evolve or be abandoned at a moments notice, wouldn’t it make sense to establish the underpinnings of who we are on this fact, and work backwards to establish our values and beliefs? Wouldn’t it seem logical to confront the inevitability of our demise as a means of asking ourselves what it is that defines us, what we truly value, and what it would take for us to pass away with the knowledge that we have no regrets? So many people spend their entire lives desperately scrambling to find their place within a world of uncertainty and change, afraid to acknowledge that one day they will die. And that when they do, they will not be defined by the possessions they own, the job they have, or the money in their bank account.

One of the greatest failings of the modern man is that we convince ourselves over and over that the materialistic shit matters. We do so because it’s tangible. It’s a way for us to touch something we have earned, or to show it to a friend or lover and say that we have lived a successful life. It makes us feel great for a few moments to bask in the superficial. But that instant of gratification fades, and no one will ever be defined by something so shallow. When we die, we are remembered for the experiences we shared with the people we love, and the way in which we brightened the lives of those around us. I know that probably sounds like a bunch of contrived bullshit penned by a hopeless romantic. So, let me put it like this…

…When I die, I want to look back on my life and know that I achieved the things that mattered most to me. I want to be able to say that I was loved; and that I loved unconditionally. I want to know how wonderful it feels to be someone’s father, brother, son, lover, friend, enemy, and entire world. I want to be shaped by the experiences that I have lived through, both good and bad. And I want to be able to say that I have had a positive impact on the world around me.

I would like a few other things too. It would be great to say that I wrote a best seller, or that I earned enough money to live comfortably without the fear of financial ruin. I’d like to have owned a fancy car too. Who wouldn’t? But if I had the choice between owning a Lamborghini or holding my newborn child in my arms for the very first time; the car would become meaningless in an instant. There’s a reason that people talk about money, cars, and possessions as dreams.  They are something to aspire to; but they’re not a necessity. Love and happiness are. They are the framework of a life well lived. Without possessions, you can still live an amazing life. Without love and happiness; you’re going to be fucking miserable.

When my life fell apart I realised how often I was sacrificing my own happiness to focus my attention on trivial and incidental shit. It became apparent that my pursuit of perfection and possessions was exacerbating my fear of death because I was subconsciously creating a life governed by anxiety. I had lost sight of what really mattered most. And as I looked around at my friends and family I realised that I wasn’t alone in my mistakes.

I saw couples who I knew were madly in love growing apart as they pushed themselves to buy a bigger car, or a better home, rather than allowing their love to blossom simply by acknowledging that they already had everything they could ever need within each other. I saw strangers sitting in silence at bus stops, their eyes fixated on mobile devices; desperate to feel connected to something or someone, but too afraid to share a moment of intimacy or awkwardness with the person sitting right beside them. And I saw that so many people were lost and afraid because they felt like they had no purpose. When all they needed to do to find themselves was to accept that one day they will die, and then work backwards to understand what mattered most to them in that space between birth and death.

This post is a swing at complacency, because that is exactly what we as a society have become. We are so complacent in ourselves that we take the people and experiences that matter most for granted; failing to realise that possessions, followers, or moments on instant gratification don’t equate to happiness. We’re neglecting to acknowledge that we are shaped and defined by the moments we share with our loved ones, and the way in which we touch the hearts and minds of the people we meet.  We feel contentment in community, and experience true joy through love. So, don’t be complacent. Don’t make the mistake of focusing on the trivial and neglecting to nurture yourself. Accept that one day you will die, figure to what it is that matters in your life, and make the most of the time that you have while you still can.

If you love someone; show them. If you have a child; hold their hand and teach them to grow. Cherish every moment, opportunity and experience that you have between birth and death. Because even something as certain as our inevitable demise is uncertain in its timing and deliverance.

Author: Chris Nicholas

Chris Nicholas is an author from Brisbane, Australia. He has published two novels, and is currently working on his third.

127 thoughts on “Between Birth & Death”

  1. This was an amazingly insightful post. Beautifully written. That time between birth and death can be sooo fulfilling! : )

  2. Thank you for writing this thoughtful, honest and introspective piece. You don’t know how much I needed to read these words. May God continue tobless you on your life journey with wisdom, courage and love.

  3. Really enjoyed your piece here. I was beginning to think this would tip over the edge into sentimentality (definitely not my bag as I don’t believe it benefits anyone) however, the words of your emotions felt sincere and well meant. It also felt more about life than death my friend; if you sleep at night, death has never been your fear, only loss. Death knows not loss. Thank You for a great read. א

  4. What a beautifully written piece on such a tough subject. It is hard to let go sometimes, when our culture tells us “more, more, more”. I’m currently reading “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*uck”, which touches on this subject as well. Best wishes to you on your journey of introspection.

  5. If I could be half the writer you are I love to be able to have the talent that you have. I have to agree with you about the worldly possession in the fact they are just materialist things that can be replaced more so than life. I am with I hope in the time I have left on this earth I can feel that I have accomplished I set to a accomplish in this life.

  6. As I read your post, I kept saying, “Yes.” The truth lies in the reality of death. If we can face that inevitability – honestly face it, then we will move beyond the temporary. I ask myself, “Does my behavior advance my legacy of love?” This is the litmus test. If it does not, then I change my thoughts and my behavior. Bravo.

  7. The American dream is a trap that most people fall into. A lifelong pursuit of this, rather than living within the boundaries that defines what is possible and pursuing happiness and love within those is wasted time and effort.

    If you have lived your life in ways that have made you and your loved ones happy, then the end of life becomes a natural and accepted conclusion to it, something that most old people.can tell you. I’m one of them, being born in 1938.

  8. In nearly 20yrs of working with older and terminally ill people I’ve been with countless during the last few weeks, days and hours of their lives up to and including their deaths and after. The conversations and experiences they had and I shared with them have undoubtedly given me an entirely different outlook on life, death and all that follows but the “after” is another story for another post maybe.

    Just to touch on your point about the material things meaning jack shit – you’re entirely right. I once cared for a lady that lived in a beautiful detached house (more a Mansion) with the finest ornaments, cars, clothing, jewellery and a stack of cash in the bank which until she was nearing the end of her life meant everything. I’ll never forget her lying in bed one morning and asking me to draw the curtains back and open her bedroom window for her because she liked to listen to the birds and had never realised how beautiful they were or even taken the slightest bit of notice until she realised it was something she would soon no longer be to do.

    I’d draw back her curtains every morning so she could listen to Blackbirds and have never forgotten her saying “All this I have here.. all these things around me seemed to be everything before I realised they meant nothing. Take time to appreciate the little things sweetheart cos they’re all that matter”

    Sad that she discovered this too late but in doing so she helped me realise how and why those little things matter.

    Glad to hear you’re on the up and feeling better but if its any consolation you have nothing to fear about death and everything that follows it. Of that I’m absolutely certain. 🙂

  9. All we humans really can claim is the ‘now’; everything else is illusion at best and a drain on our psyches at worst. Yet our cultures seem driven by the need to reflect on the past and make plans for the future. Trying to manage these ‘needs’ causes most of us to become bogged down in the minutiae of daily living. And doing so makes it all the more difficult to live in the now. Best of luck with your ongoing epiphanies! It seems as though you have become ‘receptive to light’ so hopefully you will now ‘receive’ light..!

  10. You should read ” The Tibetian Book of Living and Dying.”, even if you don’t believe everything it says it still has hidden gems the offer us all a look at the beauty of death and it’s freedom but also a down to earth reminder of how important this life is as well.

  11. it is sobering and centering and exhilarating all at once to read your account of wiping the crusty sleep from your eyes as you open them to a new dimension of reality.

    welcome to consciousness, brother. bear it lightly; the road is long.

  12. As I read this post I thought :” this is his legacy in the making.” Serious stuff but very important work to do. No point in leaving it till you are on your death bed. It is too late then . Bravo! Carry on!

  13. It is good that you have overcome your fear of death. It is one of my biggest fears too, and although I have realized what it is that I want to do in my life, I’m still afraid because the world is so good and beautiful but I’ll have to go some day. The only consoling things is that when I die, I wouldn’t know it, unlike the time when we leave something behind and miss it. I won’t feel anything after dying. That’s also one of the reasons I don’t believe in the idea of an afterlife. The misery would never end that way.

    Thanks for sharing this. 🙂

  14. Beautiful and very interesting post!
    Unfortunately I recognized myself mainly through this materialist obsession and sometimes my private life is a disaster (no “true” love no “true” friends..). Will it change one day ?.. Obviously I hope, anyway I do live with.
    I don’t really know the reason but death has always “fascinated” me and scared me too.

  15. Not to put too fine a personal point on it, but I once asked a cardiologist “Now what?” And she said, “Take your medication, live your life. No one gets out alive and no one knows when.” So…there it is. With or without meds, live your life until it’s over. Get your heart broken early and often and the place where it belongs will show up when you least expect it. And this one should make you feel a little better, too.

    “Nobody gets out of here without singin’ the blues.”
    Albert Collins – Adventures in Babysitting

  16. A friend, who is a financial adviser with an A+ list of wealthy clients, once relayed this story to me: “One of my clients, who is in his late 70’s, once told me that if he had it all over again, he would do “it” differently. “It” being his life. “James”, he said, “You know my portfolio is on the north side of 300 million dollars, but right now, with hindsight being 20/20, I’d gladly go back and be at my son’s Little League games, my daughter’s birthday parties…I like being rich, sure I do, but it would’ve been great if I was sitting here with you today, with a portfolio of a couple of million bucks, and instead of being strained and almost estranged from my children, and by extension, my grandchildren, I’d be a welcome guest in their homes and someone they really loved.”

    Mind you, it’s easy to say that when one is awash in cash & worldly goods, so there has to be some kind of balance. One way I learned how to do this (not that I’ve ever been in danger of possessing too much wealth!) is to simply say to myself, “People are more important than property.”

    Great post! Here’s wishing us all a balanced life, full of meaningful relationships, financial wellness, and whatever connection we need to the Greater Mind to see us through the darkness that surely lies ahead.

  17. Thank you for writing this. Having thought I conquered depression and anxiety, I noticed the uninvited guest wanted to visit again. I needed to read your words.

  18. This is beautiful. Thank you. Seize the day with the end of your life in mind. Have you read Billy Collins’ poem “Forgetfulness”? That always puts me in this same mood: a bit depressing but ultimately focusing and good.

  19. I’ve had a bit of a death theme going off and on in my corner. I visited here because you liked something of mine on a blog separate from the uncaged blog (I have to compartmentalize, though uncaged has no purpose but to spill words onto a screen…and thanks for the like). Anyway, I reblogged this post on uncaged because 1) the topic aligns eerily with my latest posts and 2) my readers would LOVE this. I certainly do.

  20. Reblogged this on I think, I say, I do and commented:
    Death is the only certain thing in life, yes. And taxes, sadly. Both are not reasons to celebrate. But, acknowledging that fact about death isn’t bad at all as it prompts us to live life now and live fully. Knowing that we’re all going to die and knowing that we don’t know when we will die should be enough to shake complacency off but we’re probably stubborn and defiant.

    In my early to mid or probably late 20’s, I wanted the CEO title, the cars, the mansion, the parties, the travels, the labels, the fashion, all luxuries you can think of – all of them! Until Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits asked me what I’d like the people speaking at my funeral to say about me. I realized I wanted what you have listed as what matter most to you; bestseller included. 🙂 Cars, too, if I could. Yes, I’d take all of those luxuries, if I could have them, but not at the expense of what matter most.

    Knowing all the things that matter the most to me doesn’t mean I don’t go off-track because I do. I don’t spend enough time with my toddler because I’m doing extra work for my full time job, because I’m working on the business that we have on the side and because I’m writing. Keeping a balance is not easy but we keep trying and working on it.

    And right now, I am forced to re-evaluate my life and goals again, telling myself that perhaps I cannot have it all, while I rest in bed because the headaches I had last week were telling me that I was in danger. I found out my blood pressure was way high (one would have had a stroke already – 215/125 to be exact) from stress. Fortunately, I’m healthy overall; excepting the stress. I’m now on medication, resting and relaxing to get that BP down, now at 162/108 (last reading about 15 minutes ago).

    Maybe, having it all is an illusion. Or, we need to re-look at the definition of “having it all”.

    Thank you for sharing this with us. Even for us who know, a reminder is always a good thing and most welcome.

  21. Thanks for liking my poem. Came to check out your site and stumbled upon this very thought-provoking piece. I agree with you, society as a whole should strive to seize the day and take hold of what truly matters in life. I myself make it a priority to spend time with my family, though sometimes when I’m writing I can get caught up in the process. Good reminder that life is short.

  22. Absolutely stunning piece. “Because even something as certain as our inevitable demise is uncertain in its timing and deliverance.” One of the truest statements I’ve read in a long time. Raw and unfiltered.

  23. Totally agree with many of the above replies and comments ! One point maybe worth mentioning is that Life is living in one form of ourselves – the material and physical aspect, and Death is living in another form of our identity – the immaterial, the spiritual aspect. , so says Khalil Gibran ‘in his ‘ The Prophet ‘ and many other books of his, and many great thinkers and sages throughout the history of mankind.
    Remember ! you don’t really die and end there when the physical returns to stardust. You live on. You are immortal because you have a soul -. the breath from your Creator that never dies.
    You’ve heard of Life AFTER Death surely.

    SO REJOICE and live your fullest and in the best conscienscious way you know how !

  24. I decided to visit your site after I saw you liked my post. Thank you for that. My worldly issues seem so minuscule after reading this post. It has definitely prompted me to do some reevaluating. I want you know that your words can help so many people as they have helped me. Thank you for the enlightenment.

  25. I enjoyed your post and was entertained by the comments here.So many things to take away from this conversation.

    I guess I’m more worried about how I’m going to handle it when my parents die, since one has cancer and the other Parkinson’s.

    I’ve never given my own death much thought.

    You’re struggle with depression is real and heart wrenching. You have an audience out here who enjoy your writing and will continue to support you.

    Enjoy your day. Stay positive and love one another.

  26. “I want to be able to say that I was loved; and that I loved unconditionally. I want to know how wonderful it feels to be someone’s father, brother, son, lover, friend, enemy, and entire world. I want to be shaped by the experiences that I have lived through, both good and bad. And I want to be able to say that I have had a positive impact on the world around me.” This is particularly salient for me and where I find myself in my current relationship and job situation. Beyond that, I struggle with general anxiety and have a tough time finding the balance between striving for perfectionism and pursuing “happiness” with reckless abandon so a lot of this post is very relatable.

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