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. I’ll echo the sentiments above and include myself among your willing audience. I’ve been a little in love with death myself, since reading O’Neills “Long Days Journey Into Night.” Your writing resembles his in its candor and raw beauty. Thank you.

  2. Do you know Mary Oliver’s poem, When Death Comes? “I want to say I was a bride married to amazement/ I was the bridegroom taking the world in my arms . . . ” and on it goes full of the realization of death and the vivid hope in life.

  3. Life without love is really no life at all. I have three wonderful children and a loving husband and that love is what I embrace each day. You’ve captured the importance of living a life with love.
    Also….thanks for visiting my blog!

  4. Sometimes, it is in the most painful experiences in this miserable life that we learn the most about ourselves and about life. But, we must not allow death and fears about it to dominate our lives. We are here to live constructively and learn to love.

  5. when in love u die, coz u sacrifice everything for the other’s reason to go on. U die when that person couldnt even give u 5 mins for any affection and lovingly tell u with full passion. That is death within any relationship. whatever plane of it, can cause anyone to die. how then can anyone place death and dying within him/herself or must people wait for more devasatating sitauation in their lives, so those people thinks they need the time when an actual physical death comes.

  6. I too feel the same way.i was with my father at his deathbed.after he passed away,my life has changed.we are going to live only that life giving love and affection to atleast to the people around you.

  7. Wow, what a great post. I’ve been going through a lot of internal transformation myself, and I feel so strongly about what you wrote. Specifically about complacency. Thanks again for sharing… I’m new to WordPress, looking forward to more of your work.

  8. Hi, thanks for the like on our recent post!

    This is a very well-written and life-affirming post. I agree 100% with what you wrote, having thought a lot about death myself lately. It’s also always a treat to read discussions like this that don’t bring up metaphysics, as I believe such ideas, most likely not reflected by the reality of death, obscure more than they clarify.

    Personally I believe death needs to be reformed in the minds of man. Much like what you wrote, what if we accepted our death as a fixed, physical event, worked backwards from that moment, and cut out the clutter? I believe that would be a much healthier approach.

    Anyway, cheers! Best regards,
    Sam / atcn

  9. Great post, although I personally believe that nothing is certain in life, not even death. We’ll find a way around it one day.

    But at the moment, I guess it’s still the most probable ending.

  10. All things are temporary and transient – a constant conveyor belt of shit happening all over the place all of the time. The shit that’s happening is ephemeral – as is death. In the time it’s taken me to write this, a shit-load of people have died at one end of the conveyor and yet another shit-load have been born at the other. I also firmly believe that shit happened before we got on to the conveyor belt and shit will continue to happen when material existence type ‘death’ causes us to drop off the other end otherwise none of it makes any sense at all. There ya go.

  11. ” 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.” To me this sums it all up. Being 55 and becoming very aware of my mortality I do not give my time away freely. I cherish it for people and places and things I want to share with, enjoy and embrace. My circle of friends has been whittled away to just a mere hand full but they are the core of existence. Even if we don’t speak for a couple of months we pick up where we left off…still a big part of each others life. Nice work.

  12. First time reading your blog so of course I have no context of where you have been. Initially I thought this was going to be a dark post. I sense youth with an old soul or have attended the school of hard knocks hence the premise of relationships over things. I am of the school of learning from the prior generation. Learning in the sense that you want to replicate or break the chain that bound them as not to be captive yourself. Having five children, three are adults. I like to believe I choose the breaking of chains approach. Additionally, I tend to make them aware of chains that could possibly bind them. This is what I hope to be my legacy. Peace to you on the remainder of your journey.

  13. This was an insightful post with so much depth and poise. You’re right the wrong thing isn’t dreaming about a Lamborghini or having a big house, it’s sacrificing the greater things for the materialistic which have no thoughts or feelings, or have a character which is shaped by man. We certainly didn’t choose to come into this world, but we can choose how we live it

  14. what you wrote is enlightening. I have just started reading a book about exactly the same thing. pls. allow me to quote some of what you said in one of my future blog post. 🙂

  15. I love this message. I think we often have too many sources of pressure to live our lives a certain way that we lose ourselves. And this is why depression has become such a huge epidemic. I have been in similar situations and now try to live my life as truly want to. I also always think about if I get in a fight with someone, do I want to be petty and continue to be mad, or make up? What happens if I or they die and the last thing that was said was poison? I know I want to create love and happiness while I am alive.

  16. Hi Chris,
    I found your site after you visited mine. I’m so happy I did. Thank you.

    You just turned a clichéd theme of ‘materialism versus the truly important things in life’ into something new, raw, freshly grounded.
    I am in awe of your way of expressing what I would like to say but can only manage to fumble my words. Well done.
    This piece has struck a delicate chord in many readers. This makes it therefore masterful. That’s why we write, I suppose.
    Thank you for writing.
    Regards. Marie.

  17. Physical death is dependent on a space-and-time construct. Modern physics and mysticism are coming together to suggest that space and time are illusions, and that everything is happening in the “spacious present” with bleed-throughs to other times and places. (“The Tao of Physics,” for one.)

    This leads to the much debated topic of the “immortal soul,” or whether life is snuffed out, like a candle, at the point of death. Belief or non-belief in a soul or afterlife probably affects most people’s approach to life itself. In both cases, though, it makes sense to live life in the moment, as you suggest. Mystical traditions also emphasize the “Be here now” approach, and that’s what meditation is about, too. Love is a given, and it can be expressed many ways.

    Also, as long as we have physical bodies, we must provide for them, so material comforts become part of the contract. A fancy car may be important to some, but the process of obtaining it differs in different people and probably determines whether they feel fulfilled by, or happy with, the methods of acquisition.

    Physical death is indeed certain, but so is the moment. How we choose to spend each moment eventually creates a life.

  18. When we find that death is a “graduation” of sorts, it may be more comforting. On to a better place, job well done, more matured and prepared for what may come next.

  19. First thanks for visiting my blog and reading my post.

    I congratulate u for finding peace with death. As honestly i haven’t.

    My cousin (born 2 months apart) recently passed away from lukemia. She has 3 kids. Every time i see them i think of my own kids and what they will do without me.

    I’m not really scared of death for me, i lived and loved to the fullest. I am worried about my kids. I dont want them to be lost. I hope they know how much i love them and how much they make me happy.

    Still working on getting through my issues. Thanks 4 the post.

  20. I tell my family often that death is just a part of LIFE. Life is the important thing. I, too, realize how materialistic the culture here is becoming. One only has to visit a remote village in Ghana to see how crazy we live. Our thinking is all wrong, in many ways. I try to take time each day to think on the Truly Important Parts! Loved your post, it helped me clear my thinking and priorities even more!

  21. If there’s one thing depression has taught me, it is how to be strong despite circumstances you can’t control. It taught me to no longer be afraid of things as immense as death (and even life itself). I adore this piece. Thank you for it. 🙂

  22. A few of my favorite quotes that may or may not conflict you as to “who” I am and how I decide to live.
    We are all born dying.
    In 3 words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life, it goes on. – Robert Frost

  23. I’m really touched by what you wrote and i applaud you for sharing what you have felt from falling apart and almost reaching the deep end but then over coming it in the end.This might sound a bit cliche but it almost reminds me of the music video marry the night by lady gaga because it shows gaga in what looks like to be in a hospital where she talks about how she looks back on her life and still realizes that her life is like a type of painting that may look perfect but has those blotches and errors that she tries to correct and then throughout the video you see her falling apart and then slowly rising again showing how she’s not going to give up her life. we may not know what the future or what tomorrow holds but what can do today is make today the best we can and with what you said about people at the bus stop mostly on the phone trying to be connected to someone or something in this day and age technology has become a way of life because so many people are connected to the internet to the point where nothing is really private anymore.

  24. “…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….” Amen! xxx

  25. Reading your post made me think of this old Edgar Winter song:

    Dying to Live

    You know I’ve heard it said there’s beauty in distortion
    By some people who’ve withdrawn to find their heads
    Now they say that there is humor in misfortune
    You know I wonder if they’ll laugh when I am dead

    Why am I fighting to live if I ‘m just living to fight?
    Why am I trying to see when there ain’t nothing in sight?
    Why am I trying to give when no one gives me a try?
    Why am I dying to live if I’m just living to die?

    Hey, you know some people say that values are subjective,
    But they’re just speaking words that someone else has said.
    And so they live and fight and kill with no objective
    Sometimes it’s hard to tell the living from the dead

    Why am I fighting to live if I ‘m just living to fight?
    Why am I trying to see when there ain’t nothing in sight?
    Why am I trying to give when no one gives me a try?
    Why am I dying to live if I’m just living to die?

    Yeah, you know I used to weave my words into confusion
    And so I hope you’ll understand me when I ‘m through
    You know I used to live my life as an illusion,
    But reality will make my dreams come true

    So I’ll keep fighting to live till there’s no reason to fight
    And I’ll keep trying to see until the end is in sight
    You know I’m trying to give so see’mon give me a try
    You know I’m dying to live until I’m ready
    ’til I’m ready
    ’til I’m ready
    ’til I’m ready to die

    There is wisdom in this song. We are all living to die. I understand that no one gets out of here alive; but, I am dying to live until I’m ready to die.

    In MICAH 6:8 we are told: He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

    If we remember this and remember that as Peter Scholtes wrote:

    We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
    We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
    And we pray that our unity will one day be restored
    And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
    Yeah they’ll know we are Christians by our love

    We will work with each other, we will work side by side
    We will work with each other, we will work side by side
    And we’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride
    And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
    Yeah, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

    Then our goals in life become clearer. Show others mercy and love, be humble, and worship God. Find JOY by putting Jesus first, Others second and Yourself last.

    Indeed, strive to be last:
    Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Mark 9:35

    If we are focused on serving others we will not have time to think so much about our own mortality. And in the end, by putting ourselves last, we will be made first. Such is the unworldly economy of God.

    Keep up the good fight.

  26. Well, I’m totally neglecting my fellow commuters, sitting in tube and reading this post on my phone. Should I be feeling bad? 😉

  27. Without Love, there is no life. just existence. Until we can face and accept the possibility of losing everything we have on this planet we can never become all that we can be. Love casts out fear and fear is what holds us all back. Good luck on the rest of your journey.


  28. Enlightening and very well written to say the least. It takes some of longer than other to realize these things.

    Thank you for the simulating and insightful confirmation that I’m right in my pursuit of not missing one day of my kid’s life’s even when money does get tight.

    I have a sneaking suspicion that you have a best seller right around the corner.

    Namaste, My Friend!

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