Live like today is NOT the last day of your life
“Live as if today were your last day, learn as if you were to live forever” — Mahatma Gandhi
This quote was made famous by Gandhi. While I agree with the latter part of this saying, I could not agree with the former. For someone who thinks about life and death often, treating everyday as your last day on earth does not make sense to me; it is disturbingly unsettling to imagine that.
Pause for a couple minutes and consider this question — If you were to die tomorrow, what would you do TODAY?
I came up with this list:
1. Tell my children and husband how much I love them
2. Watch my kids play. Read them stories. Tell them funny jokes. Dance silly. Eat in bed.
3. Make videos of 1 and 2
4. Repeat 1, like every 15 minutes
5. Let my family pick out the items they want to keep to remember me. Donate the rest to charity.
6. Review my will (which I don’t have but should really get one done)
7. Give my husband usernames and passwords of my social media accounts so he can collect pictures and memories of me. This is really important. I would want my children to know more about their mother when they grow up.
8. Give my husband username and password to my Lastpass account so he has access to other accounts that he might find useful later on dealing with the aftermath.
9. Call my mother and brothers over and have dinner together. Laugh and remember the very best moments of us being together.
10. Write a note to thank my best friends (just a handful) for being part of my journey.
If TODAY were really your last day to live, could you imagine doing anything else other than spending time with your loved ones?
I seriously doubt that you would go to work to finish your very important projects, close that big deal, train hard for the big game coming up, study for the big exam and chase that big dream of yours.
Nor do I think you would eat healthy and exercise.
“Uhmm, you’re taking it too literally!” Well I truly understand the well intention behind the idea of thinking today was your last day on earth — that we should live in the moment and only do things that matter. I am a big supporter of doing more things on our “last day” list. The problem is, whenever I imagine myself dying tomorrow, I get into this anxious helpless cycle of how my family will grief and how my young children are going to grow up without the care of their mother. The hopeless feeling that there is yet so much to do is paralyzing. It cripples me to think that I would be disappearing from planet earth the next day and just absolutely defeats the motto of “living in the moment”.
“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” — Viktor Frankl, Psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor
Perhaps what troubles me most about this “there is no tomorrow” belief is its underlying inference of losing hope. I recently read the book “Men’s search for meaning” by Viktor Frankl. It was a memoir of Dr Frankl’s first-hand experience in concentration camp during World war II. Being a psychiatrist and a survivor himself, he concluded that one’s view of his future can greatly determine his chance to overcome the toughest conditions in life. The survived prisoners from the Nazist concentration camp were those who had not lost their hope and had something to look forward to; the possibilities to see their loved ones again, continue their work before the camp, or simply take up the challenges life had ahead for them post liberation gave them unbelievable strength and courage to live on, despite the inhumane situation they were forced to be put in.
“But on the other days, we will not (die)” — Snoopy
I take the view of Snoopy and Dr Frankl. Most of the days we are going to live. When I grieve for the recent death of my brother, I remind myself that a part of him continues through me, my brothers, our children, and many generations to come. There is so much to look forward to, to be grateful for and to accomplish when there are many tomorrows ahead.