It’s only common that we go into denial when we first get the diagnosis.
With that thought in mind, I’m not sure who wrote this, but it’s worth sharing:
“Every minute someone leaves this world behind. We are all in “the line” without knowing it. We never know how many people are before us.
We cannot move to the back of the line.
We cannot step out of the line.
We cannot avoid the line.
So, while we wait in line –
Make moments count.
Make the time.
Make your gifts known.
Make a nobody feel like a somebody.
Make your voice heard.
Make the small things big.
Make someone smile.
Make the change.
Make sure to tell your people they are loved.
Make sure to have no regrets.
Make sure you are ready.
Serve and praise the Lord.”
I’m not terminally ill in the sense that I was diagnosed with cancer, ALS or some other sort of awful disease.
However, I, like all of us, have been diagnosed with the terminal illness that we call, “life.” Unfortunately, way too many of us do not take that diagnosis seriously and somehow seem to think that all of our tomorrows are guaranteed. They most certainly are not. The sooner in our lives that we come to grips with that concept, the sooner that we can truly appreciate our lives and all of the wonderful gifts that come along with it.
It’s only human for us to take those things and people that we hold near and dear to us for granted. Would we approach our moments with those that we love differently if we really considered that the moment that we have with them, right here, right now, is the only moment that we are guaranteed with them? Would we choose our words more wisely? Would we hug them a little tighter and a little longer when we say, “So long,” “See you down the road,” or “Good-Bye?”
Would we let them know what they mean to us more often or we would continue to let those precious words go unspoken?
Would the reason that a friendship ended so abruptly still be as important as we thought it was, or do we realize how truly petty it was when it’s too late?
Would we pick up the phone to start the conversation today, or continue to put it off until tomorrow?
My brother-in-law and I once had a conversation after he had been diagnosed with cancer and he knew that his life would be ending soon. He told me that he sometimes felt as though getting cancer was a blessing because it gave him a new appreciation for what was most important in life.
He said, “We all know that we’re going to die, I just have a better perspective now.”
I don’t know why he told me that, but it has stuck with me ever since. It was really probably the only time in our relationship that we had a one-on-one conversation, and it was powerful.
A large part of this journey for me has not just been about keeping my mother’s legacy alive, but also about a much deeper, personal spiritual journey. In my last post, I wrote about being grateful and the power of positive thinking. It is so important to our health to keep a positive outlook and to truly enjoy the little things in life. It took me a long time to start to enjoy the little things in life. I dedicated an entire chapter about the importance of the little things in the reprint of my book, “The Beauty of a Diamond, Through the Eyes of a Coach.”
It also took me a long time to understand the importance of self-care. As an empath and a highly sensitive person (HSP), self-care is not something that comes easily for me. A blessing, or perhaps a curse from both my mother and father. I have always put other people’s needs in front of my own. Many times, I would actually feel guilty about making a decision that would benefit me. However, there are times when you need to be selfish. When you need to take care of you first. I will continue to put the needs of others in front of my own most of the time. I truly believe that that is the correct way to live your life, I always will.
However, I will now be much more strategic about it. I will no longer put the needs of people who genuinely do not care about my needs in front of my own. I will no longer engage in toxic situations in which the other party is the only one winning and I am only one making sacrifices.
In her later years, my mom would often say to me, “Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do for you.” Generally, I would agree and then continue to go about doing things the way that I always did. Putting others first regardless of what the cost was to my own personal mental health and well-being.
It finally took me walking away from a highly toxic situation that was literally straining every aspect of my life before truly understanding what my mother meant when she said that. I finally made a selfish decision, and it was to start living. To walk away and start this new journey with my wife. A real journey with many miles under the wheels, but so much more importantly is the spiritual journey and a new perspective. A perspective that appreciates the little things more. A perspective that loves even deeper. A perspective that understands that tomorrow is not guaranteed and that all that we truly have is this moment.
Since Sandy and I have started this journey, so many of our friends and people that we know have passed away. All of them had plans for tomorrow. All of them had items in their calendars that they would now miss. All of them attended their last birthday party, said their last “I love you,” or their last “good-bye,” without even knowing it.
The news of each of their passing came with great sadness, but also with a resounding affirmation that we were doing the right thing. That life is too short to always be planning for tomorrow.
Our society has created this model of what it feels our life should look like. Go to school, get a job, go into debt, work to pay-off that debt for a long time has been the “American Dream” for a long time. Most of us wake up, go to work, rush around, take a few minutes in the evening to catch our breath before bedtime and repeat the whole cycle again the next day, and the day, for about fifty years. After that, if you’re lucky and still healthy enough, you may have a few years before you die to enjoy your retirement, with what’s left of your life.
So many people that we have crossed paths with over the past several months have told us that they hope to be able to do what we’re doing someday. That it’s their dream. I always respond with, “Someday could be today.”
Don’t wait until tomorrow, do it now. Don’t make excuses as to why you can’t do it, excuses are easy to come up with. At the end of your life, the only true regrets that you’re going to have will be about the chances that you didn’t take.
The reason that you “can’t do it,” has nothing to do with finances, or time, or an employment commitment. It has everything to do with fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of failure. Fear of “fill in the blank.” At some point, you just have to do what you have to do for you, take that leap of faith, and truly start living your life to its fullest.
When my mom decided that she was going to leave her job in the mid-1980’s to travel across the country in that old beat up 1967 Plymouth Valiant, she wasn’t wealthy. She just had courage. Sandy and I are far from wealthy as well. And with the pandemic lingering, there is still much uncertainty when we start to look too far out into our financial future. But we know that God will continue to provide for us. The future is important, but this moment, the one that we have right now, is even more important because it is the only thing that we have which is guaranteed.
Only when we fully understand the concept that we are all truly terminally ill and that every day in which we live is also one day closer to our death, can we start to really appreciate what’s important in life.
David Crosby once said, “Don’t waste the time. Time is the final currency, man. Not money, not power – it’s time.” My brother shared that quote with me right after we first started this journey. I have referenced it a lot since then. It really sums up everything that I’ve just written about. It doesn’t matter how much power you wield or money that you have in the bank, time is the most valuable asset of the three. The biggest difference between power, money, and time is that you know how much you have of the first two. However, time is that currency in which none of us know how much we have left until we get to zero.
Therefore, we must spend our time wisely.
Godspeed. Carpe Diem.