As I get older I am reminded more of death as friends and family make that transition. This morning I will be packing for a trip to another state to attend services for a dear friend’s father. He was eight-six and lived a good long life. Yet at the same time it’s sad that he departed so soon. It will be a somber occasion regarding the loss and a happy one in celebration of a good man’s life.
There is no doubt I will cherish life a little more through the experience of the next few days. At least for a short while life’s reality will be a little clearer. Certainly coming face to face with another’s passing will bring my eventual destination more prominently before me and in my thoughts. And maybe the most important of all I will witness the love of family for one another and how each helps another bear the difficulty of this moment of life. I know the door of sadness I will walk through initially will have me walking out later tempered with love, joy and gladness.
Steve Jobs died only a week ago. He gave a remarkable commencement address to Stanford University’s class of 2005. Included were some of his thoughts about living and dying. Mr. Job’s words were inspirational and here are a few paragraphs from his remarks:
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important; have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960’s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and Polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.
Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.
Watch the full speech here: http://www.ted.com/talks/steve_jobs_how_to_live_before_you_die.html
Sitting here this morning three months past my fifty-eighth birthday, I am more aware of my eventual demise than ever before. But my awareness of being alive is the most acute it has ever been too. In contrast to the many years spent sleep-walking through the present toward an imagined future, today I do my very best to be truly alive and aware in the moments of my life. Just one example is this blog. For near half a year now I have gotten up around two hours earlier every day to have the time to write. Why? Because writing is something I always said I was going to do. No longer will my awareness of the reality of life and death allow me to hesitate about doing more of what I promised myself I would do. Previously I wrote about those dying most often having the largest regret for the things they did not do https://goodmorninggratitude.com/2011/08/27/five-biggest-regrets-before-dying/
Realizing the remainder of days for the “must-do’s” in my life becomes a reduced number with the passing of every day makes me more truly alive. There is so much about living life well I still want to learn, but it is the knowing of that and applying myself to it which opens my heart, mind and soul to being more fully alive. I am grateful for this state of being that places me here in this “now” with a joy for living.
Gaily I lived as ease and nature taught,
And spent my little life without a thought,
And am amazed that Death, that tyrant grim,
Should think of me, who never thought of him.
René Francois Regnier