Robert D. Smith, author of “20,000 Days and Counting”, writes:
“…the best preparation for living well is to be prepared to die at any time. Imminent death inspires clarity of purpose, a rearranging of what really matters. How many times have you heard of people having near-death experiences and then making radical changes in their lives? From where they live and work, to whom they spend time with, to what takes priority, it all suddenly has a different meaning.”
Last week, I hit an interesting milestone in my life – I was 21,000 days old! That seems like it might be pretty old. It’s actually 57 years, 26 weeks and 0 days old. I mentioned in a previous blog that I have a routine of marking up the date and the number of days I have been alive on the whiteboard in my office, each day. That simple five-second action helps to remind me that “every single day counts. Despite that I, like many of us, have that lingering fear of aging and death.
When you have five minutes free, watch Ric Elias give his TED Talk on “Three things I learned while my plane crashed” – Elias was in a front row seat on Flight 1549 that crash landed in the Hudson River in New York, in 2009, with Captain Sully. He is quite entertaining and thought-provoking, especially for frequent fliers!
For more intrigue and inspiration on the topic of death, I recommend you read the book “Dying To Be Me” by Anita Moorjani, about her journey from cancer to near death to true healing. A fascinating soul-searching story of a near-death experience that may challenge many of our cherished beliefs, but provides one person’s insight into what may lie beyond this world in the hereafter; another very thought-provoking story.
We all know death is inevitable. People have varying views on death – is it the end, the beginning or something else? How we understand and view death affects how we respond to the death of a loved one, and how we think about our own death.
So for those of us who do have that occasional uncertainty and fear – what can we do to help alleviate our fear of death? What can we do to make room for a more positive and happy life?
Smith talks in his book about a short video, available online, called “When I Die: Lessons from the Death Zone.” This video chronicles the inspiring last couple of weeks of a terminally ill man named Philip Gould. One segment says “Philip Gould, you’re going to die. Get used to it. And this is going to happen in weeks or months.” It’s only when that happens that you’re aware of death. And only when that happens, is when life suddenly screams at you with its intensity.
Our lives often get caught up in the mundane, the grind and the every-day routine. Don’t let impending death light the fire of action in you. Act sooner. Act today. Take the time to discover your purpose in life – what do you want to accomplish? What would you strive to do if you knew time on earth was less than you hoped it would be? Let that purpose be something true to yourself.
Chose to be fully alive, purposeful, and loving every day.
As obvious as this may sound, having good life insurance in place will make us feel better knowing that a sudden early or unexpected death leaves the people we love, or who are dependent on us, in good financial shape. I have seen some people I know completely miss the boat on this, and an unexpected death added more pain, uncertainty and suffering to an already sad situation. Speak to a professional, and remember this applies equally to women as it does men.
Life is really a series of moments. Whether it be times spent, or memories shared, with those few really important and impactful people in your life. Stripping out some of the more mundane or less pleasant experiences, like a day that turned into a commute from hell, focus on those moments that really matter. Studies have suggested that writing a brief journal each day of special moments can increase our appreciation and happiness in life. Unfortunately, humans spend more time thinking of negative experiences than positive ones. This negative bias is the source of a lot of anxiety and general lack of well-being. One great tip, before you go to sleep each night, is to think of three good things that happened today, never mind how simple or mundane; then write them down in a journal and reflect on reasons why you think they happened and why they made you happy. Savor each day.
If we learn how to die, we’ll know how to live; if we learn how to live, we’ll know how to die. I thought sharing this song/video, Live Like We’re Dying by Kris Allen would be apropos. If you listen to the words, it reflects this sentiment very well.
Finally, Smith has a wonderful Native American proverb he refers to that sums up this topic nicely:
“When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a manner that when you die the world cries and you rejoice.”