I am, by all accounts, in the prime of my life. I’m 43. I have the most beautiful and amazing wife as my best friend and partner. My three teenage kids are still without a criminal record or a failing grade (none are driving yet). My business has endured significant challenges, and has, by the grace of God, blossomed over time. We have a beautiful home with all the trappings of a comfortable suburban paradise. This is the life. Right?
I lost my dad in 2014. Stomach cancer. It was 4 months from the first sign of trouble to telling him goodbye in that hospice room. The ironic thing is that we thought Dad was the healthy one, between he and Mom. My mom has advanced Alzheimer’s disease. She and dad were married for 49 years, and he was her primary care giver. Once Dad was hospitalized, the vast majority of what was left of Mom went away as well. Although Mom is still with us, in many ways, I lost both of my parents in 2014.
We all realize that we will all die. And yet, somehow, it just seems as though your parents will always be there. The same is true for the manner in which a parent believes their children will outlive them, and yet many – including some of our close friends – experience the unimaginable pain of burying a child. I have largely been spared from death in my 43 years, but I have been struggling lately to wrap my brain around the temporary nature of life on earth.
This isn’t even intended to be a spiritual conversation. I’m not talking about or thinking about eternal life. I’m talking about this finite life. In the same manner in which I nearly make myself dizzy trying unsuccessfully to comprehend that the universe goes on and on and never ends… It seems simply unreal that all of these years, more than 15,700 days on earth, and everything I have learned, and the human relationships I treasure, and the material comforts I crave, and the future I’m planning with great anticipation – could end in the blink of a drunk driver’s eye, or the wrath of a tornado’s fury, or a heart that inexplicably stops beating. I sort of chuckled just now at the well-known phrase, “living on borrowed time.” Let’s face it, it’s ALL borrowed time.
I graduated from college in 1994. It’s 2016. It is downright sickening how quickly those 22 years have flown by. When did a week become a day, a month become a week, and a year become like a month? In another lightning-fast 22 years, God willing, I will be 65. My dad was 73. Yes, any of us may leave this world at any moment. However, even in a best-case scenario, where I live a long and happy life, I know it will be like the blink of an eye.
It doesn’t matter if you’re John D. Rockefeller or Michael Jackson or Paul Walker, no one is exempt. Today, tomorrow, 22 years from now, 43 years from now… this life will end, and none of us truly knows exactly what comes next. So if there’s something you need to say to someone, or something you’ve dreamed of doing, or some risk you’ve been afraid to take, it’s now or never. Live boldly. Love deeply. Give generously. Find something to be grateful for every day.
One thing I know for sure… When I leave this world, I simply hope to leave this world better than I found it.