Living With Mortality
My mother just passed away. The one person I’m closest to. Well, was. The one person I could tell absolutely everything to, had just died. She just celebrated her 48th birthday the very last time we talked. She was fine. She looked radiant (as usual) and healthy. Yet it took less than 3 days after our last conversation for our world to be upended. A little more than a week for our whole world to be completely uprooted. She was 48, she was no more and I have plenty to say.
Brain aneurysm. Tiny blood vessel, lethal eruption. I was thousand miles away when it happened. I was somewhere in the Middle East when I got the phone call, my brother, crying on the phone, telling me about her situation. She was still in coma after the first brain surgery when I got home. She never got the chance for her second surgery.
Here’s the thing. We all know we’re going to die someday. We know it’s part of life. We just don’t know when. Yet it never crosses our minds that it could actually be us. The murdered man who appeared on the 6 o’clock news. The pregnant lady who died giving birth just last week. The husband of the lady who lives across the street. It can happen to anybody. Death makes no exception.
Death doesn’t differentiate gender, race, nor status. The rich can die tomorrow as much as the poor. Our time is very limited yet we act as if we have unlimited reserve. There’s always tomorrow, we think. But tomorrow is never promised. Today could have been the last.
Some people think they understand death. They think they’ve accept it with open arms. Yet their actions betray their beliefs. If they truly understand life and death, they would have lived differently. I am no different. My mother’s death had opened my eyes.
I have often heard the expression ‘Live life like there’s no tomorrow, like today is your last day on Earth’. I thought I understood it but now, now that I am experiencing it, I realized how little I knew, how little I understood. I believe that everything that happens to us, good or bad, is for a reason. What happened to my mother, I take it as a lesson I have to learn and I believe it happens so I can relay a message to you.
We are living on borrowed time. We assume tomorrow is guaranteed and so we put in the backburner things that we thought we can still do tomorrow. The phone call we’re supposed to make last week. The football matches of the little ones. The piano recitals, the ballet performances. We place importance in things that could have waited and put on hold things that actually matter.
“Everyone knows they’re going to die,” he said again, “but nobody believes it. If we did, we would do things differently.”
- Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
How true. “I’m 20, I’m 30, I’m 40, I’m still young. I still have a long way ahead of me.” We think we have all the time in the world. I can tell you now that that’s not always the case. We don’t know. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Hell, we don’t even know what will happen within the next hour. Do you know what happens when time runs out and you finally realize that time is very volatile and unpredictable?
Believe me I’m living through it. I saw my mother lying in the coffin and all I could think of was the things I wanted to say to her, the things I said that I wish I could take back, the vacations we were supposed to take and a hundred other things that could have been but no longer can be. I could only say thank you and sorry, hot air that vaporizes the moment it left my mouth.
Live life like it’s your last. I’m not talking about earn as much as you can or live as extravagantly as you can. I’m talking about things that matter more than money and status. Love as best as you can, as much as you can, as fully as you can. Do the things you actually want to do while you can still do it. Just, live and love and laugh. In the end, the only thing that remains is the memory.
To know you’re going to die, and to be prepared for it at any time. That’s better. That way you can actually be more involved in your life while you’re living.
-Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom