What dying can teach us about living.

Today I found out that someone I knew died. She was just an acquaintance, but she was young and vibrant and I was shocked to hear it. I also did my first-ever hospice volunteer visit today.

Two mutually exclusive events — two unavoidable reminders about mortality, a topic on which I’m no expert. I haven’t lost too many loved ones in my life … yet. But I will. We all will. Such is the nature of life. Everything is temporary, including us.

Most of us know we should live each day to the fullest, make the most of every moment, etcetera etcetera etcetera. We’ve heard the platitudes a bajillion times. We’ve seen Steel Magnolias, read Tuesdays With Morrie and listened to Tim McGraw’s Live Like You Were Dying. But we still get caught up in work and daily activities and the clutter of our busy lives and it’s all too easy to forget to remember to live the way we want to.

I believe that this lifetime is a gift — a grand adventure. It’s not supposed to be a drudgery. But too often, it feels like one.

I get caught up in it too. As much as I’ve worked to do what I love and love what I do, there are still mornings when my depression takes hold and I feel like I’m just going through the motions — forcing myself to soldier on. Which sucks. I want to live a life overflowing with joy and gratitude and passion and love and excitement. I believe that’s why we’re here.

So based on my recent reminders that death looms over us always, here’s the advice I’m giving myself — and everyone else. Because life IS short and it could end tomorrow. If it did, how would you want to go out?

Helping others is always a win.
If I died tomorrow, I’d be glad I spent some of my last hours on others instead of obsessing over myself. I’ve done enough of that to last 15 lifetimes.

Laugh more.
I don’t laugh enough. I think most of us probably don’t. But life is supposed to be fun and silly and not taken too seriously. It’s going to end in death no matter what, so why not go out giggling instead of sobbing?

Take risks.
We’re hard-wired towards safety and security. But such things don’t really exist. I’m constantly fighting my own comfort zone. I hem and haw and hate leaving it, but I’m ALWAYS glad I did. Pushing my limits is the best thing I’ve ever done. Besides, safe = boring.

Don’t tolerate boredom.
Avoiding boredom is not about being busy every minute. I think it’s about finding what fulfills you. There’s no excuse for being bored, EVER. There are infinite activities, interests, pursuits, places, people, books, endeavors and adventures in this world. If you’re bored, you’re doing it wrong. Life, that is.

Don’t believe your brain.
Our minds can be such rat bastards. Lying, manipulating, cheating bastards! Hell, they’d give Charlie Sheen a run for his money. When we believe our thoughts, we do ourselves a serious disservice, and hold ourselves back from being the best we can be. Think you’ll fail at your dream? Think you’re not good enough? Think you deserve to be punished for some past misstep? Tell that noggin of yours to zip it and do whatever you dare.

I’ve never actually been in love. Not really. Which, frankly, sucks. I’d sure as hell like to know what that feels like before I go. But the romantic kind is just one of love’s many faces. And that being said, I’m eternally grateful for all the love I’ve received and given to my friends and family and even strangers. Love is everything. It’s all that matters, it’s bigger than anything else — and it’s what we leave behind when we vacate these temporary bods. Don’t be stingy about it. Give it freely.

Be forgiving.
Considering this isn’t Salem, Massachusetts circa 1692, there’s way too much witch hunting happening these days. The internet has brought out the worst in us, with millions of web users quick to pass judgment and crucify others for perceived wrongdoings. What good does that possibly do? Today, I saw dozens of cruel comments on a story about a woman who shot and killed her children and herself. Yes, it was a hideous and horrible situation, but the commentary from the peanut gallery made me equally sad. If you died tomorrow, would you want your last words to be some nasty comment on a website about someone you’ve never even met? You’ll never regret being kind, forgiving or compassionate. You may, however, regret calling someone a dirty skank, saying they should burn in hell or offering some other mean-spirited opinion.

That’s it. I needed these reminders, today and always. ‘Cuz one day, it’ll be my last. And I sure as hell want to make the moments count ’til then.




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2 Responses

  1. Patrick says:

    “The tragedy of life is not death, but what we let die inside us while we live”

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