The Real Kiss of Death: When to NOT Fall in Love

If you want your life to stay exactly the same, don’t fall in love. If you want to be unaffected by the loss of anything or the death of anyone, don’t fall in love.

Or if you want to put off what makes you come alive or to sidestep your purpose, don’t fall in love.

Making sure you don’t fall passionately in love is simple: Guard your heart against all that Death stirs up inside of you.

Act as if you will live forever in this physical body, and so will everyone you know. Get on with business as usual when someone you love is dying. Don’t let the temporary nature of anything impact your daily routine, the decisions you make, or your future plans.

But if you are willing to live differently – to have certainty without having answers, to follow unexpected twists and turns, to be deeply moved and satisfied, to grow and give and receive and surrender – then here’s what I suggest for you:

Call upon death to be like Cupid, shooting an arrow of passion into the heart of what matters to you. Invite death to be the matchmaker between you and what brings you joy.

Then accept the real Kiss of Death: Allow death to escort you on the mysterious adventure of falling in love with life. 

What dying can call forth

The week before my life-partner Kate died, she did an audio recording for me. The entire message was only thirteen minutes long. In it, she offered me her sweet memories, accolades and encouragement.

Toward the end, she spoke a cliché phrase we’ve all heard before:

“Live your passion,” she said with fervor. “Live your passion.”

And then with even more conviction, with a voice strained by tears, she implored me a third time: “Live your passion! As much as possible. Every day. And enjoy, enjoy . . .”

The depth of feeling in her tears expressed an inner knowing that is reserved only for those facing their own imminent death. Her tone and emotions conveyed more than her words. They acknowledged her own passion. And in doing so, she intimately knew the true meaning of what otherwise could have been a trite expression.

In the wake of her dying days, with her heartfelt plea to live my passion, Kate was able to recognize her own aliveness . . . and call forth mine.

Kate already knew I was enthusiastic about life. I don’t think she worried too much that I would lose that zest. But there was something in her voice asking me to take it to a higher level. I’ve asked myself many times, In which ways am I only half living? And what is my passion anyway?

What is it that Kate was urging me to live?

My conclusion is that she didn’t have something specific in mind. In fact, the emphasis is just as much on YOUR as it is on LIVE and PASSION. What is MY passion? How can I move forward rather than feeling the weight or pressure of figuring that out?

Falling in love decides everything

Though it seems that Kate was the one urging me to live my passion, I would say that the real catalyst is death itself.

Kate couldn’t have expressed the same insights without having looked death directly in the eye. Not with a vengeance or animosity. But to have looked death in the eye with a softening gaze of kindness and understanding. To see how death challenges us – like nothing and no one else – to fall in love every day.

Soon after she died, I came across an inspiring quote by Pedro Arrupo that has been both on my refrigerator in my house and framed in my camper van as a daily reminder. For me, this is what it means to live my passion:

What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what gets you out of bed in the mornings, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

I imagined this quote was written by a Latin American poet with a carefree life. Someone sipping coffee in the sunshine, buying fresh vegetables at the market, and laughing with his wife and children.

But rather than a beautiful lover whispering in his ear, Death happened to be the rousing muse breathing down Pedro Arrupo’s neck.

To my surprise, Pedro Arrupo was a Spanish Jesuit priest and leader. He had been sent into exile and later imprisoned in solitary confinement. When living in Japan, he witnessed the blast zone of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and the devastation it caused. Quite the opposite of a life of leisure.

Death itself summons us to live

Years later, Father Pedro Arrupe went to Central America and embraced the liberation theology movement. He stood in solidarity with people living in intense poverty and with those who were helping the poor and targeted to be killed by “death squads.”

In my college years, I was very aware of what had happened in El Salvador since I had become friends with Salvadoran students. But the point here isn’t to get into the politics of the peace and justice movement (which does stir up my passion, I must say).

The point is that Death has the ability to put Life into perspective and implore us to live. Every day.

As it turns out, Father Pedro Arrupo’s quote was a spoken prayer. The opening line that wasn’t printed on the card on my fridge is this:

Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in an absolute, final way.”

I realize the “G-word” may turn some of you off. But stay with me on this.

Whatever we call the great mystery – God, Spirit, Connection, Love, Oneness, Life-force Energy, Awareness – nothing is more practical than finding it. Practical? Yes. Falling in love is practical, meaning it is possible. Necessary. Purposeful. It informs our lives. It makes us come alive.

Falling in love isn’t superfluous as we sometimes tend to imagine. It is all we are born to do. It is all we need to do. We find our passion when we choose Death as a companion on the journey of Life.

After all, dying is falling in love in an absolute, final way, isn’t it?

What have you got to lose?

The finality of Kate’s physical life challenged me to find the place of vitality in mine.

When I listen to her recorded words, I fall in love all over again. Not just with her, but with my own inner guidance and what opens my heart to life. To find love, to fall in love, I need to connect to the spirit of who I am. And then living my passion – in small and big ways – can naturally flow from within me. Maintaining that love, fueling that passion, IS what I believe we are all called to, and what Kate and Pedro Arrupo invite us to notice and act upon.

So what’s at stake when you fall in love with Life? Your daily routine is at stake. The decisions you make are at stake. The future that’s unfolding before your very eyes is at stake.

Because what you have to lose by NOT falling in love is your aliveness, your purpose and your connection to everything and everyone.

Who or what you are in love with may change, which is part of personal growth and transformation. Your passion may be as immense as dedicating your days to the human right of clean drinking water for all people, or as simple as planting flowers in your garden. The point isn’t the object or subject of your love. The point is the love.

And that you give your life to this love. As much as possible. Every day. And enjoy, enjoy . . .

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Jennifer Mathews, M.A., is a writer, spiritual cheerleader, and change maker. She currently calls both Bristol, Vermont and Mount Shasta, California home (when she's not traveling elsewhere, that is).

Based on her own exploration of death, grief, joy and optimism, Jen offers life-affirming perspectives and practical tools to support others on their journeys. In her personal and unconventional TEDx Talk, “Death is Inevitable – Grief is Not,” she invites us to break free from the limitations and language of a grieving process and change the way we think about and respond to the death of those we love.

Jen is a founding member and organizer of the Ashland Death Cafe and the Living/Dying Alliance of Southern Oregon. As part of the Community Outreach team of the award-winning film Death Makes Life Possible, she has facilitated conversations on death, dying, and the afterlife in the US, the UK and Ireland.

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8 thoughts on “The Real Kiss of Death: When to NOT Fall in Love

  1. Ummmmm. Love hearing about the recording and Kate’s words. As usual, she reminds, inspires and encourages. Thank you for your words and sharing this piece. Glad to have caught it now. Live big!

  2. Thank you Jen, for your beautiful post. You share deeply, helping us to shift and grow, and open our hearts to live our passion!
    Death certainly does put Life into perspective. My partner’s mom told him, in her last days of life, “Don’t be afraid of Anything”, and his sharing of her words often echo in my thoughts, and now, so will your sharing of Kate’s words, “Live Your Passion”.
    I will journey along, continuously falling in Love with the adventure and mysteries of Life.
    Loving hugs to you! :o)

  3. Wonderful article, Jen. It is such a shame in our US culture that folks are so in denial about some as inevitable as death. I am not afraid of it…for myself or any of my loved ones. Quality of life is far more important to me than quantity. As a society, we need to be educated about that. Thanks for taking the reins to do so.

  4. Holy smokes, Jennifer! I thought falling in love meant we had more pictures to blow. Back to the *#*$ drawing board. (Sigh) You write so well – it’s a pleasure to ride the gentle waves of your prose. And, your article comes at a timely moment – I’ve lost three friends/acquaintances in the past month and I feel myself strangely stirred up. From the ultimate in-my-head-er, thank you.

  5. Tears grabbed me upon reading: “Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in an absolute, final way.” It is what my life is about and yet I had lost focus. Thank you for this quote and the whole Brilliant article. May you be immersed in Love!