|There is a song that is popular on the radio where I live that is called ďLive Like You Were DieingĒ. It talks about a man who finds out that he doesnít have much time to live so he does a bunch of things heíd always wanted to do. At one point in the song there is a line something like ďI hope you get a chance to live life like you were dieing.Ē The song, quite frankly, rubs me the wrong way.
In part that may be because I donít see dieing as the end. As a Christian I see it as a beginning of a better time. So I donít see the need to get things in while I have the chance. I expect life to be pretty good with Jesus in heaven. The other problem I have with this attitude is that it seems to encourage acting without thought of the consequences. It makes me think of the character in various stories who is told they donít have long to live and so they spend all their money, do all sorts of things that have consequences that they donít expect to be around the face, and generally go hog wild. In the stories something often happens (there was a mistake in the tests for example) and they have to live to face to consequences. Pretty sad ending if you ask me. But even if a person does die the consequences of their actions are likely to bite someone. It may ďonlyĒ mean that a bank doesnít get paid back on a loan but it may mean that a spouse or a child loses a home. When I think about things I do I think about how they impact my wife, my son, my extended family, friends and others. I have a responsibility to them whether I am dead or alive.
And then there is notion of doing things that you have been putting off or taking care of yourself rather than others. I think this is all a matter of priorities. Oh sure some people deny themselves things under the guise of responsibility and often that causes resentment and frustration over time. I would agree that this is something to worry about. But you have to ask yourself ďif this activity was really important to me wouldnít I find a way to do it?Ē If the answer is that what you are doing instead really is more important and valuable to you why do you resent doing it? One canít do everything after all.
Let me give you an example. For years my wife and I took care of her mother whose health was not good. Because someone had to stay with her and because she could not travel easily we missed out on some things. There were a number of vacations where one of us went somewhere with our son and the other stayed home. Would it have been nice to travel together Ė all three of us? Of course. But the fact was that it was much more important to us that we provide a good quality of life for my mother in law. Would we have enjoyed leaving her to fend for herself or in the care of a stranger? I donít think so. In fact I think we would have had a lot more regrets about how we treated her than we will ever have over ďmissedĒ vacations together.
I think that people can and do find ways to do the things that are really important to them. Or they find reasonable alternatives. Maybe you canít afford a week in Disney World so you plan day trips to StoryLand. Or you canít spend a week at the shore in the summer so you buy an inflatable pool for the backyard. Most likely in the long run you will remember the time you spent with family rather than regret the missed week at the beach.
I think people should live their life like they want to really live. That means finding a balance among the parts of their life Ė self, family, community, career, etc. If there are things that you really want to do then you should balance it against the totality of the goals for your life and if appropriate find a way to do it. I guess that is easy for me because I set some goals in mind early and made them early. I wanted to ride a bicycle from one coast of the US to the other and I did that before I was 16. I wanted to visit Rome and Israel and I did those before I was 21. The trip to Norway took a lot longer and was due completely to my Dad deciding that what was important to him was to take his family there as a group. Iíve visited all of the places in the US, and in fact the world, that are really important for me to visit. There are a bunch of places that would be nice to visit but if I never get there Iím still a pretty contented person. There is no place to go where once I have been there I can say ďok now I can die happy.Ē Iíve got a wonderful wife and a great son so Iím not sure what more I could want for in that area. OK grandchildren but thatís not really up to me is it? Iím content with my relationship with my father and with my siblings. I would like to spend a bit more time with them all but in the context of our lives weíre doing just fine.
Career wise Iíve had a good time. Iíve enjoyed being a teacher and working in industry. Iíve really wanted to work for two companies, both hard to get jobs with, and managed to get jobs at both of them. Right now my main work goal is to do the best job that I can at what I am doing and do it as long as Iím having fun. Well if another job that looks like more fun comes along Iíll think about it. Money long ago stopped being a huge motivator. Sure Iíd love to have more but Iím not sure that much more money would make much more of a difference in the way I live my life. Having getting rich as a goal is not something that every really resonated with me. After all, how many toys can you have and how much time is there to play with them when you are working so hard to get rich? It comes back to balance again. So much in life does.
Live life like I was dieing? Just what would that mean for me? I canít imagine. I think that people who can imagine what it means are about due for a serious look at their lives. I hope they do it before it gets too late to live life like they are really living.
Copyright Alfred C Thompson II 2007