Death reminds students to treasure life

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 December, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 December, 1999, 12:00am

On my desk there is a wooden photo frame with the phrase: 'To leave much love when I leave'. And this is my life objective.

I like to remind myself that I will die someday, therefore I must treasure my time.

I always plan some time to relax and treat myself, such as taking a long bath, eating bird's nest or doing yoga.

Besides playing hard, I also work hard.

I always say: 'I love you' and words of encouragement to my mother, sister, students and give them warm hugs.

I treasure myself and my loved ones as I do not want them to be sad when death comes and we are separated.

I 'seize the day'. This is the motto in the excellent movie Dead Poets' Society, which stars Robin Williams as a teacher inspiring his students.

If you have not already seen it, go ahead and do so.

I saw this movie twice when I was 18 and a first year student in the Department of Religion at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

It inspired me to be a good teacher, to be with my students as Robin Williams was in the movie.

So I teach about death in my religious studies lessons.

At the start of one lesson, when I stepped into the classroom, I wrote 'death' on the blackboard.

One student immediately said: 'Oh! Tai ka lai si.' Then I said: 'Yes, it is a taboo in our culture and society to mention death, but let us think about it and see if we can learn something from it.' Then we had a meditation session about how the body decays after death. This is an exercise from the teachings of the Buddha but is also found in Catholic teachings.

The meditation was a little bit horrible, so my students liked it.

'It is exciting. I feel I am lucky when I open my eyes and there is still flesh on my face,' a girl said after that lesson.

Briefing is important before and after giving a lesson about death. I prepared myself to provide counselling or follow-up with students having problems with the lesson.

I was happy that my boss approved of my teaching this topic to students.

'Wouldn't the parents complain?' a colleague asked.

'Then it shall be a chance to share the wisdom of death with them,' I replied.

Actually, parents also need to learn how to deal with death.

Part II next week Ethical, Civic and Religious Education is sponsored by the Department of Religion at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. To make our column more interactive, we have set up a Web page at for you to post your ideas, comments and suggestions. There is also a discussion forum in which readers may talk with each other.