This morning I read a news article about a young woman whom I have never met that had been kidnapped, raped, and murdered. This afternoon I went to the house of an old man, sickness permeating his body, a few hours before an ambulance took him to the hospital. Soon, he too shall die. Few things about their lives are similar, but what do they have in common? They leave us asking, ‘why?’
Facing death brings forth a myriad of questions. Why did this have to happen? Why to this person? Why so soon? The range of emotions we have to go through are endless. Sometimes we’re selfish, and say it isn’t fair. Sometimes we plead for more time. Sometimes we’re angry. There is no right or wrong response to be found. Having to accept that things are out of our control is probably the hardest thing to do in this situation.
Now, I know this will be hard to hear, but bare with me. You’re going to die. Everyone you care about is going to die. It’s inevitable. No matter what you do, you can’t stop it. Death greets us all. It may be today. It may be tomorrow. Someday, it’s going to happen. But, instead of focusing on the things we can’t do, lets examine the things we can.
Time is not ours to control. How we spend our time, however, is up to us. We can make every minute of our lives count. We can appreciate every person, every interaction, every moment. If you’ve lost someone, it’s easy to feel like you weren’t given enough time, which is understandable. For someone you love, there is never enough time. But, instead of being angry that you weren’t given enough time, be thankful for the time you had. There could have been more, but there could always have been less.
Looking back, most people will regret things they did, said, or didn’t say. Try not to beat yourself up over such things. But, try not to gloss over them either. All of the days you had together, the good and the bad, are part of your story. They’re what made your relationship what it was. I remember from my first philosophy class, one day we talked about the duality of existence. One thing my professor said always stuck with me.
“Without darkness, there can be no light.”
It’s okay to look back and say “They used to make me so mad!” You’ll find yourself wishing that you could argue with them again someday, just once more. Because, even a bad day would be better than no day at all. But, all of those bad days? They’re what make the good days so sweet. If you had never argued, you couldn’t have made up. If you didn’t push each other away, you couldn’t have pulled each other closer. All of those moments are what lead you to where you are, even the bad ones.
Now, how can we use this experience to help us with the living? Theres nothing that will make you appreciate life more than facing death. Take the people around you. You’ll always have disagreements, and you can’t make everyday perfect just by wishing for it. But, what can you do?
Work towards making everyday a good day. It won’t work, but you can try. Fight a little less. Forgive a little faster. Tell them you love them a little more often. Work towards cultivating relationships that don’t need apologies. No ‘I should-haves.’ No words unspoken. Appreciate the people in your life everyday. Because someday, they won’t be there, and that day is sooner than you want it to be.
Now, for you. You’re going to die. You’re going to leave people behind. What will they remember about you? Have you done all that you needed to do? Have you said all that you needed to say? Have you sought forgiveness? Have you forgave?
And, most importantly, are you ready? If not, you’d better start getting that way. To quote Emperor Marcus Aurelius.
“Death smiles at us all. All we can do is smile back.”
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