The idea of living one foot in the grave comes from the Zen masters, some of whom would carry a tiny coffin with them when they traveled, a reminder of their mortality, a token of the temporary nature of existence.
The idea has become misused and distorted in the West, which tends culturally to make an enemy of death and view it as something to be avoided rather than embraced.
Death comes to all people. Whether you embrace death or not, death will embrace you.
In the West to live one foot in the grave is most often used to mean “close to death.” The phrase is often applied to those who express a poetic desire to die young and glorious. It is associated with those who lead high-risk, even suicidal lives.
But to live one foot in the grave does not mean to live obsessed with death, or to live a life of suicidal self-destruction that strives toward death.
To live one foot in the grave means to live with an awareness of your own mortality, a knowledge that the condition we call life is not permanent.
It is not an expression of defeat or depression. It is not fatalistic to live one foot in the grave. It is instead a vision of hope and a stand against fear.
To live one foot in the grave is to live with purpose and awareness.
To live one foot in the grave is to live free.