5 Lessons I Learned With Weeks to Live
A while back I encountered a health crisis. The results are still undetermined, but the bottom line is I may not live much longer.
Under this verdict, I learned these lessons:
1) Everyone wants to live forever — and that’s okay.
Most want perpetual life; not on earth but in a better place. We don’t like or want death, and think it sucks.
And none of our attempts at immortality are enough. I don’t desire to upload my brain to a computer. Neither do I want to live to a hundred-and-twenty in a decrepit body. Likewise, it’s too little to only be remembered for my societal contributions. No. I want to live in an actual body in an actual place with my actual family and friends for eternity — and never have to worry about death again.
This is normal. Our quest for life everlasting is the motivator for many projects: having kids, building empires, seeking fame or lots of money. We try to construct something that outlasts us because, well — this life is all we have.
Or is it?
I believe not — but that’s another conversation for another day.
2) Everyone thinks they’re going to live forever — until they realize they won’t.
I got really, really sad when I realized my time may be short. I didn’t know if my husband and daughters would be okay because I’d never prepared them to live without me. I always assumed I’d be there to care for them.
This type of thinking resulted in misplaced priorities. Over the years I’d overemphasized little things while underemphasizing big things. For example, I’d spent too much time teaching my daughters to cook banging Thanksgiving dinners, but not enough time telling them to do what they love.
Which brings me to my second point…
3) We should do what we love.
I started writing when I was like, three when my momma stuck a pencil in my chubby fist. I never thought of it. I didn’t ‘search for my passion’ or ‘find my purpose’ because it was already zipped into my identity.
That’s how it is with most. We get day jobs to pay bills but there’s always that thing we’ve done whether we’re paid or not. For some it’s singing; for others it’s painting or coding. Or maybe digging ditches.
Whatever it is — that’s what we should do. If we can parlay it into a paycheck, great — even if that paycheck barely covers a week’s worth of oily canned meat. Better to be a happy Spam chugger than a miserable steak connoisseur.
But most of us — unless our thing is reconstructing brain atoms or defending famous murderers — will always need a day job. So what? Just keep doing your thing on your own time. Whatever happens, though, don’t stop. Because it’s one of the most important things you’ll do.
4) We’re more than accomplishments and money.
I used to believe I was worthless unless I conquered corporate ladders, sold a million bestsellers, or earned enough to buy my husband a Cadillac. That’s bogus baloney packaged and sold to us in response to our insatiable quest for immortality (see #1.) You’re more than Employee #84076 at Corporation X, and my personhood runs far deeper than a wannabe software engineer with a handful of Twitter followers.
When I realized time was finite, I accepted I’d never accomplish some things or earn a bunch of money — and that was okay. I wasn’t in control, after all. I just did what I could, when I could.
5) Life is most beautiful before it ends.
When you’re close to death, you reflect. You think on all your moments and realize how awesome it was. Sure, parts sucked. But some didn’t and that’s what you remember now. And you’re smiling like a dope because you finally understand what a lucky son of a gun you were to simply be afforded a role in all this.