I googled "Death is the mother of beauty" and got a lot of interesting websites. The one I believe is the most meaningful and connects the best with our class was really long, and had a few stories of people dying before his analysis of the quote. There are several classical allusions that allow me to make sense of his analysis, that I wouldn't have been able to as easily understand a few months ago. www.open-spaces.com/article-v10n3-jdaniel.php. A great quote from the article:
"In a life without death and knowledge of death, what could stir our passions. Without the need to realize ourselves before we die, to cross the mountains or sail the sea...what would drive us to write poems or symphonies that amounted to more than repetitive celebrations of the unchanging boughs that Stevens imagined, hanging heavy in a perfect sky with ripe fruit that never falls? Why would we tell or listen to stories? How could we because in that paradise, without desire and hope and fear, there would be no stories, no beginnings, no endings, no past and no future-only a single, eternal enslaving moment beneath those boughs of fruit whose very sweetness would be dulled, if we could taste it at all, by the easeful death of our infinitely ongoing lives."
This might be the reason that people who get cancer have said it changed their lives in incredible ways, not just the fear of the disease itself, but with the realization of their own mortality, they appreciate each day in a way they hadn't before, and are thankful for each day. Or people that have lost someone they love and have gone through pain and suffering because of the loss, are able to appreciate the beauty and briefness of life as they hadn't before.
I think when you understand how uncertain life is, you have the opportunities to make your life richer. One morning when I was 16 I went to school, and my mother came to tell me that my father had died of a massive heart attack, no warning, no chances to apologize to him because I was a normal, self-centered, smart-mouthed teenager. I've chosen to live my life in such a way that I tell the people who matter most to me that they do matter. I tell my kids I love them, maybe give an extra hug or two - yet in a way I think it has made me a better parent, because as they've left home for college or marriage it's been easier to let go because I have said the things I wanted to along the way. They know they are important to me, and I know I am important to them. We continue with our lives knowing death is waiting in the sidewings and appreciate the beauty of life even more because of it.