“Live every day as if it were your last, because one of these days, it will be.” – Jeremy Schwartz
I hope that title grabbed your eye. Take a second to think about it.
No matter how strong, how healthy, how well prepared you may be, you’re eventually going to die someday. And unfortunately, no one knows the time they will go. People who are the picture of vitality and health wake up one day and are involved in a mortal accident or an act of violence. People with no history of poor health come back from a routine doctor’s visit with the news that they have an incurable disease.
My first death in the family was my maternal grandmother. She was in the process of recovering from a stroke at our house and one morning, she was just gone. She wasn’t in the best health, but there wasn’t any deathbead ritual – she simply died sitting at the breakfast table while my mom had a conversation with her. I was only 10, so it wasn’t the biggest impact on me.
My paternal grandmother was next. Again, she had been sickly, but it wasn’t at all expected. My paternal grandfather was next, and he passed away during the night. He’d never been to the hospital a day in his life and at 94 was still working hard outdoors every day. I was beginning to get the picture that death just wasn’t that predictable.
My mother was diagnosed with lung cancer when I was just out of college. She’d never smoked or had a family history of it. Luckily for us, she pulled through surgery and radiation treatments like a trooper, but there were still a lot of anxious months and years involved before she was pronounced cancer-free definitively.
My father died in a routine operation to clear a blood vessel in his neck. He’d never been in the hospital in all his years and had just breezed through a preliminary operation of exactly the same kind a couple of months before. He went through surgery fine, then mysteriously died in the recovery room.
In 2005, I contracted West Nile disease and suffered meningitis, encephalitis and about a weeklong coma. When I woke, they were prepping us to expect brain damage and loss of function. Thankfully I pulled through this and proved them all wrong with a full recovery, but it was a very sobering time.
At this point, your mother is halfway through chemotherapy to fight breast cancer. We never expected this either and likely would not have found it if a bout with bronchitis had not caused her to find the lump early. We were very lucky.
The point is, you never really know how much time you have left. The older you get and the more close brushes with death you have, death becomes less of an intellectual exercise and more of an expectation.
No one wants to die. Even people that think they’re headed to Heaven next don’t want to die to get there. But it’s the destination we all share. You won’t escape it.
Sorry to be so dramatic and melancholy, but it’s all quite true.
The lesson to learn is that your time is limited, so don’t waste it. Don’t waste it living the life someone else wants you to live. Don’t let the noise of public opinion drown out your inner voice. Have the courage to follow your heart and your dreams.
And look in the mirror every day and ask yourself that if today is the last day you have, would you still do what you planned to do today? Are the goals you are pursuing worthy of the last day of your life? In the grand scheme of your life, will today matter? It might be the last day you have to matter.
Everything else is secondary.