“You know Nick, it’s a miracle you’re even alive. From now on you’ve got to be sure to live each day to the fullest.”
Or so I’ve been told. Multiple times, in fact.
While I promise that not all of my posts will be about me and my near-death experiences, there is one additional point I’d like to bring up regarding my brain-bleed and hospitalization this past winter.
During my time in Rochester, I had the privilege of receiving many visitors and well-wishers. They all had plenty of questions for me, and many also shared words of wisdom. By far the most common admonition I received was, “You’d better not do anything like this ever again!”
I really couldn’t argue with that one. Nor could I find fault with the second most common piece of advice my visitors gave. They told me to always live life the fullest, because we never know which day is going to be our last.
This principle of living life has taken on new meaning for me since last Christmas. Though my neurologist did tell me he’s fairly confident I won’t have any more hemorrhaging and that I should be able to live a long and healthy life, he also cautioned that there are no guarantees in these matters.
This minor uncertainty, however, is something with which I am quite comfortable. In fact, I would go so far as to say it even gives some joy.
While I would much prefer living to a ripe old age, I find it helpful to always carry with me the knowledge that, in but a moment, I might be unexpectedly taken from this life. This understanding helps to put everything else into perspective. It allows me to see what things are truly important and worth my attention. It makes me realize what it actually means to live life to the fullest.
It’s funny how a brush or two with one’s own mortality can give one a new perspective on life. If someone had asked me a year ago, I probably would’ve told them that living life to the fullest meant having more time for relaxation. I might have said that it was about spending less time at work or was about having more adventures. I likely would have mentioned owning a comfortable home or doing more travelling.
While I still believe that these are all good and important parts of life, I realize now that living life to the fullest isn’t primarily about these things.
As I understand it now, living life is less about making ourselves happy and more about helping others. It’s about being kinder, more charitable, and more patient. It’s about making time for family and friends. It’s about forgiving offenses and setting aside our grudges. It’s about being more generous with our time, talents, and money. It’s about praying for people, regardless of how well we know them or like them. It’s about smiling at strangers, conversing with them, and taking a genuine interest in who they are. It’s about doing more of the little things like holding doors and using common courtesy. It’s about serving others and putting their needs before our own.
I know that someday I’m going to die. I also know that when I do, I’m not going to leave behind any grand accomplishments. Certainly no one is going to travel across the country to see any monuments erected in my honor. But I do hope that when my time to leave this world finally arrives, I’ll be able to leave it a happier place through the positive impacts that I’ll have had on the people around me. In other words, I hope that I will leave this world a better place for others to live by living my own life to the fullest.