Sometimes it takes a death to get us thinking about life. I had a very close relative pass away a few days ago, his name was John. He had seemed in okay health but after fainting a couple of times, he was taken to a local hospital. Over the ensuing days, a number of tests were conducted and he was diagnosed with a fatal illness. Less than 3 weeks later he was dead.
While the death seemed sudden, I can’t help but think that he had some idea of what was coming. He put up a brave face externally, while knowing inside that he was not well and that his flame would soon be extinguished. Yet, I also believe John had no regrets. He was a loving man who lived a full and long life, making many, many friends along the way. He died in peace.
Would you have regrets if life was abruptly taken from you?
This may seem harsh but let’s be honest here. We don’t know when we’re going to die. Some of us may lose our lives in an instant, without warning, through a stroke, an automobile accident or a random act of violence. What if there was no time for preparation and life was suddenly yanked from you like a rug pulled from under your feet? Would you have regrets?
A few years ago, an old friend I had been meaning to visit passed away suddenly, dead of a massive heart attack that killed him before he hit the ground. You may know a similar person, a friend or relative taken away in the middle of their life, here one moment and gone the next. It doesn’t seem fair, but life plays by its own set of rules.
The inspirational writer Dawna Markova has had time to contemplate the notion of imminent death and for good reason. Markova is a cancer survivor who has been diagnosed with the disease on 6 different occasions. That’s not a typo, six different times. In fact, 30 years ago she was told she had only six months to live. Yet, after each diagnosis, she has battled back and is now 78 years old.
Markova was interviewed on the Sounds True podcast and was asked how she did it—how did she find the motivation and willpower to not give in to this deadly disease that has come so close to taking her life? She says that with each diagnosis of cancer, she has found herself asking “what’s unfinished for me to do?” She looks at her life and asks herself three questions:
What do I still have to give?
What do I still have to learn?
What do I still have to experience?
Each time she has had to ask herself these questions, she realizes there is still work for her to do in this life. 1. She has wisdom and life experiences she can share with others. 2. She has new lessons to learn so she can continue growing as a human being; the learning never stops. 3. She still has places she wants to go and people she needs to see.
In a now defunct blog called The River Walk, the author known as BJ had a similar refrain. He examined the Bible passage 2 Samuel 14:14 which reads: All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. He then looked at his own life and asked questions that we might also ask of ourselves:
Every day I have lived in my life is a day that I can never get back. Like water on the ground, I cannot recover it. The question is, did I pour it out or was it spilled out? The day I am living today, the one I will live tomorrow, am I investing it with purpose or am I just accidentally tripping my way through it?
If it all suddenly ended today, can you say you have lived your life with purpose—or are you muddling through it? Are you in good standing with your friends and family? Can you say that you accomplished what you set out to do during your time here on earth or were at least making progress toward some ultimate goal? Are you fully engaged in life?
If you’re like me, you answer these questions with half-yeses. You reexamine your priorities. You realize that there are lifestyle changes to be made, wisdom to be shared, kindnesses to be extended. You discern there is work still to be done, and that there is no better time to get started than right now, while there is still sand in the hourglass.