What is the meaning of life?
In my work as a hospice medical director I have spent a lot of time thinking and talking about the meaning of life. On many occasions I have sat at the bedside of a dying patient and contemplated that very question: “What is life all about?” Of course, in those instances we were looking at life in retrospect, taking one person’s life as a whole, with all of its ups and downs, and trying to understand what it all had meant.
I have learned that the meaning of life is actually much easier to grasp from the vantage point of one’s last days on Earth than at any previous time of life. During earlier stages of existence, life is complex and confusing with jobs and housework and community commitments and politics and religion and relationships all competing for attention — all creating their own sense of meaning and purpose. But when death is near, everything superficial has been stripped away; everything that dragged us into the past or pushed us into the future has disappeared; everything that required time and effort has been discarded. Then the true meaning of this existence can be seen shining and illuminating the present moment.
Each time I have accompanied a patient on this search for meaning, one common thread has emerged: that life, a tapestry of beauty and pain, accomplishment and failure, clarity and confusion, is really a journey of love; that learning all the intricacies and nuances of love itself is the reason we came here; that the greatest gift of life is the opportunity to give, receive and become love.
I believe that we are Spirits who have materialized into physical form in order to witness the diversity, expanse and creativity of love as it courses through, to, from and between us. If we can fix our gaze on nothing other than love during this lifetime, then we will have discovered the deepest possible meaning life has to offer. It is so simple and yet so difficult for us to grasp this reality and to allow love to guide our lives. But following the path that love unfolds before us is truly the key to finding life’s meaning.
~Karen Wyatt MD is a hospice and family physician and the author. She is a frequent keynote speaker and radio show guest whose profound teachings have helped many find their way through the difficult times of life. Dr. Wyatt received the Spirit of the American Woman Award in 1996, was named one of Utah’s 100 Notable Women in that same year, and in 2005 was a recipient of the Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award for Summit County, Colorado
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