Live like You Are Dying

I recently have experienced a couple of losses of some distant figures. Although I hadn’t spoken to either person in years, they both had a great impact on me. This made me stop and think more about my own life and how I am living. I often find myself immersed in the future, not stopping nearly enough to enjoy all of the amazing intricacies of being alive.

I’ve been challenging myself by asking, “What if this was your last day to live? Last week? Last month or year? How would you be doing things differently?” I know this seems like an overly morbid or even negative approach to viewing life, but I personally find it to be extremely helpful.

Reminding myself of my own impermanence makes me reflect on what is most important to me. It makes me appreciate the little things, like the feeling of sunlight on my skin, the blueness of the sky, and a simple interaction with my kids. It pushes me to take things less seriously and to make time to connect.

Another thing that I have been processing is my impact on the world. Both of the men who passed away created a greater impact than they probably knew.

Shortly after completing graduate school I started working for a non-profit run by a man named Joel. He had a strong personality and always advocated for the kids he worked with. He was someone you didn’t want to piss off and I enjoyed watching him give other professionals a piece of his mind when they weren’t looking out for the best interests of the children. He regularly assured me of my own gifts, giving me the confidence to help others and know my own worth. One of his last emails to me said, “You are one hell of a therapist.”

Last week I found out that my previous doctor—Dr. Dan Jinich—someone who has served my family for over thirty years, passed away. He was always a kind man and I was surprised how much the loss of him hit me. After further reflection it dawned on me that he was always the person to provide care when something bad happened to any of us. When I broke my arm as a toddler, or when one of us got strep throat or a virus, he was always there. He even saw my daughter shortly after she was born for her first checkup.

I encourage you to think about how you are impacting others. I always go back to the Maya Angelou quote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Both of these men made me feel valued, worthy, and cared for. Be kind, be generous, and be joyful. These are the things that will be remembered when you are gone.