Lessons from the Dying
I know this is a very somber title to this article but let's talk about death. We are all going to die; yes, you too. I believe the sooner we confront our own mortality, the sooner we get busy living a purposeful life. Recently, I lost 2 close family members whom I adored. One passed this past Sunday and the other on Christmas this past year. Both of these men were second marriages for my Mom and my aunt. Both men were in their 80’s and lived long and happy lives. They were both great men who had a profound impact on me. I enjoyed sitting down, listening, talking, and learning from them. I’ve always learned best by watching and listening to other people’s experiences. We can learn a lot if we open our eyes and ears to those around us, especially from the past experiences of our family. We can learn what to do and also what not to do by looking at the outcomes of the people who are all around us. They say that “success leaves clues” but so does “pain and suffering”. Most of us are so busy living that we don’t take time to contemplate the important things in our lives such as our health, our marriage, our children, our purpose, our finances, our gifts to others, and yes, our own death.
Let’s say I told you that you only had 6 months to live. That your last living day on earth would be exactly 6 months from today, let’s say October 14th, 2021. Also, let’s say you would still have all of your body functions and energy over these 6 months, no terminal disabling disease. Every day would be a blank canvas to work with for 180 days with full use of your mind and body. I know for a fact that most of us, including me, would live our lives very differently than we are living now for each and every one of these 180 days. We would contemplate what is important and make some changes. Many of us would quit our job, start traveling, get in touch with our friends and loved ones, and schedule time to be with them. We would think about our legacy and how we could leave a mark on this world in a positive way. We may finish up that painting, or project, or write our autobiography so that people close to us and future generations of our family could know who we were.
I just finished reading an excellent book called “Resisting Happiness” by Matthew Kelly. I would highly recommend it. In one of the chapters, the author talks about some consulting work that he did with nurses at a hospital. They were implementing a "Dream Managers" program that helps people identify why they do what they do, what is important to them, and what their dreams are for the future. Most people don’t take the time in their lives to ask such a simple but profound question, “What are my dreams?”. Mr. Kelly discusses how he spent a lot of time with the hospice nurses at this hospital. I, like most people including Mr. Kelly, think “How do they do it?”. They are surrounded by death each day. One day he was sitting with a group of hospice nurses at lunch and he asked them “What do people on their death bed talk about?”. The nurses said that these people mostly talk about how they wished they had lived their lives differently. They are:
1. I wish I had the courage to just be myself
2. I wish I had spent more time with the people I love
3. I wish I had made spirituality more of a priority
4. I wish I hadn’t spent so much time working
5. I wish I had discovered my purpose earlier
6. I wish I had learned to express my feeling earlier
7. I wish I hadn’t spent so much time worrying about things that never happened
8. I wish I had taken more risks
9. I wish I had cared less about what other people thought.
10. I wish I had realized earlier that happiness is a choice
11. I wish I had loved more
12. I wish I had taken better care of myself
13. I wish I had been a better spouse
14. I wish I had paid less attention to other people’s expectations
15. I wish I had quit my job and found something that I really enjoyed doing
16. I wish I had stayed in touch with old friends
17. I wish I had spoken my mind more
18. I wish I hadn’t spent so much time chasing the wrong things
19. I wish I had more children (I guess some were mentally ill as well, emphasis mine, LOL)
20. I wish I had touched more lives
21. I wish I had thought about life’s big questions earlier
22. I wish I had traveled more
23. I wish I had lived more in the moment
24. I wish I had pursued more of my dreams
Each one of these 24 wishes contains a powerful lesson if we take the time to really contemplate it. As I’ve gotten older, I think more about my own mortality and death. I’m not afraid of it but I do respect it. I know that I am living on borrowed time. I know that I have an influence over how long I will live based on the decisions I am making relative to my health. Stop existing each day and start living each day knowing that each day is a gift. The average person lives 27,375 days. I lived 18,824 of those days. How about you? Why don’t we make the remaining days and years a great experience, a tribute to God that he made something beautiful? I know that one day I will close my eyes for good and so will you. I pray that our lives mattered and that we lived them with much more joy and happiness than pain and regret. Mark Twain said it best when he said “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man (or woman) who lives fully is prepared to die at any time”. The question is “Are you living fully?”
Yours in Health,
Dr. Dane Donohue is a Chiropractor in Newtown PA and has been serving his community for over 25 years. Wellness Solution Centers provides all the services you need for a healthy life.