“The best way to deal with death is to live in a fully conscious, compassionate, loving way. Don’t wait until you’re on your deathbed to recognize that this is the only way to live.”
– Morrie Schwartz
By Nancy Plummer, Columnist, The Times
Are you bored with life? Are you feeling unfulfilled in your relationships, career and hobbies? Are you anxious about your future? Do you have a bucket list? Are you worried about your health and know you would be better off if you made healthier life choices? Can you list at least three people that you know will always have your back? Do you feel a sense of community? Do you wonder what people will say at your funeral?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, I’d love to inspire you to live each day as if it was your last, and help you take the steps to start living the life you’ve never perhaps even imagined, and ensure you can and will leave a beautiful legacy when your day finally does come.
Step 1: As the old saying goes, most people don’t say on their deathbed, “I wish I had worked more hours.” More often, what they say is “I wish I’d spent more time with my family and friends and done more for society.” Thus, I’d like you to write your own eulogy. Of course, you’ll have to be imaginative, since I hope you still have many years of living left and many wonderful moments that haven’t happened for you yet. However, as many of our clients have found, when they do this exercise, it is very emotionally charged; yet they reveal to themselves how they really want to be remembered and their true priorities.
We find most of our clients resist this exercise, because it feels so overwhelming. However, I beg you to sit down and write without interruption for at least one hour, then read it to yourself. Don’t be surprised if a few tears roll down your cheeks; this is your life, and as far as we know, it’s the only one we’ll get. What makes this exercise cathartic is that it will help you remember many of the great things you’ve already done for so many, and hopefully what you will be remembered for by your family, friends, colleagues, and perhaps the entire world.
Step 2: So many of us have watched our loved ones die too early from not living a healthy lifestyle. Now is the time to realize and make the necessary changes, so you don’t end in up in the same sad situation. According to the National Center for Health Statistics in a report from January 2017, of the nearly 2 million annual deaths in the United States, the top 10 causes of death is as follows:
- Heart disease: 614,348 (32%)
- Cancer: 591,699 (31%)
Just those two are almost two-thirds of all causes of death!
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 147,101 (8%)
- Accidents (unintentional injuries): 136,053 (7%)
- Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 133,103 (6%)
- Alzheimer’s disease: 93,541 (5%)
- Diabetes: 76,488 (4%)
- Influenza and pneumonia: 55,227 (3%)
- Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 48,146 (2%)
- Intentional self-harm (suicide): 42,773 (2%)
Do you want to die of heart disease, diabetes, intentional self-harm? I’m sure you don’t, and I’m sure your loved ones want you around a lot more years. Moreover, you and they want you to be healthy and vibrant enough to keep pursuing more dreams such as taking your grandchildren to the National Parks, or even volunteer abroad and change the lives of others for the better.
Today is the day to start living a healthier lifestyle, whether that means getting more sleep, eating more fruits and vegetable and avoiding processed foods, quit smoking if applicable, exercising in some way every day, and giving and getting hugs, or if you are with a partner, increasing your intimate time together. Every little change you make will make a huge difference in the years to follow.
Step 3: Most people say as they are on their deathbed that they hoped they reached a few people and made a difference in some way to make the world a little brighter. Most of us have probably given to many causes, helped people less fortunate, and gone the extra mile(s) for a friend or family member. However, wouldn’t it be nice to consciously try to touch the lives of others in a positive way, each and every day, as if it were our last? We’d let as many people we know hear or read about how much they made a difference in your life, and how grateful you are to have been a part of their life. You’d also probably be full of forgiveness; hopefully to yourself first, and then to those who trespassed against you. You’d probably be feeling very generous about your money and possessions and offering them to those who could really need a lift. You might even take the time to write a few letters/poems/songs/toasts to those closest to you, or who are close to dying.
Why not try to do something special for someone each day…a stranger or your father, and just be love. Being and sharing love is an act, whether large or small, and there is no greater gift to yourself than to give, rather than to receive. A few months ago, when I was fighting for my life with Ovarian Cancer (As healthy as my lifestyle is – I used to do handstands every day even days before I was diagnosed at the age of 54- I unfortunately have the BRCA gene), and my father at 83 visited me while he was battling a horrible fight with Bladder Cancer (he too has the BRCA gene), I wrote him a poem of all that he had done for me as an amazing father. Usually so shy, my father was so touched, he sent my poem to over 50 people he knew, and even made a copy and taped it on his hospital room door. It was like a pebble in a pond…it inspired so many to reach out to him with love, appreciation, and gratitude, while it also inspired so many to write of love and gratitude to their loved ones. Love is so healing…he and I are both doing great right now…although we both really do live out our lives like it may be our last.
Here’s to making every day count, and not just for yourself, but for the world.