A couple of months ago I was watching a TV show where a major character ends up in the ER. As the doctors realized he could not be resuscitated, they looked up to the corner of the room where the menacing red clock ticked away seconds on pace and announced “Time of death…” In that moment, I got the chills that you get when an emotional moment strikes something deeper within you. We all recognize that we’re going to die “someday,” but generally imagine that day is years, if not decades away.
As it happens, I found myself in the ER just a couple of days later due to an allergic reaction. As I laid there with a flurry of doctors and nurses shuffling about, I looked up and noticed the same red clock. I couldn’t break focus with the impending march of seconds — seconds that seemed shorter than any I’d ever experienced. As I began to recover thanks to a couple of doses of epinephrine, one of the doctors kindly informed me that if I had arrived at the hospital just ten minutes later, “it could have been a different story.” I looked back at that red clock. 2:02:19, 2:02:20, 2:02:21. My time of death could have been that very moment.
It’s impractical to “live every day as if it’s your last,” or even keep your impending doom top of mind, when we imagine it’s so far away. However, there will be a specific time that each of us is pronounced clinically dead (at least by today’s definition), whether it’s on an ER bed next to the red clock of doom, or peacefully in our sleep. For me, 2:02:20 is a current reminder of my mortality. This twice daily cue may seem morbid — after all, who wants to have an existential crisis that often? However, I’ve found this reminder has the ability to focus me in an age of ever increasing distraction. If I’m idly scrolling through non-sense on my phone and notice the time — I’m motivated to “get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’.” So — what will be your time of death?