I found out that I’m dying. How’s that for an opening line? I found this out about 40 years ago, when my great grandmother, Emma, passed away and I attended my very first funeral. At 5 years old, I quickly caught on that dying was not a great thing. It was the first time I had seen my mom cry and it scared me. I associated death as a bad thing at that point.
Over the next few years, I lost several more relatives, including my 16 year old cousin Carla when I was 10. She had kidney disease and the doctors told her parents that she wouldn’t live to see her 16th birthday. She proved them wrong by passing away early in the morning the very day she turned 16. That death still hurts me 35 years later. Carla was my baby sitter and best friend, if you can consider your cousin your friend. As an only child, I would beg my mom to let her come over during the summer when I wasn’t staying with my grandparents. She taught me how to play Monopoly, as well as how to properly pronounce it. It’s funny that I can still here her voice just as if I had heard her on the phone 10 minutes ago.
I’ve since lost most of my family including my parents and all grandparents.
It was an odd, almost surreal, feeling when I became the patriarch of my family line. There was no family member left to turn to for advice or to share my childhood memories with. Almost out of instinct, I still pick up the phone to call my grandmother, who passed from this world over 10 years ago, whenever I get the urge to speak to her. And I’m consumed with grief when I realize, after the clock tics a few times, that she’s not here anymore. Why do I do that?
Strangely enough, I’m prepared for my own death. Notice I didn’t say I’m in a HURRY for it, but just prepared. My wife hates it when I talk about it because she’s 10 years younger and odds are she will outlive me by at least 15 years and who would want a life without me in it, right? I have no fear of death…maybe a little fear surrounding HOW I will die, but not death itself. It’s a road we will all cross to our judgement. I don’t fear judgement, but that’s a conversation for another time.
That being said, I don’t think I’m ready to die just yet. If I look at my grandfather’s and grandmother’s siblings age when they died, I can expect I will live to be in my late 80’s. My grandfather and all but one of his siblings died in their 90’s. At 45, I’m thinking I’m right at the half way point in my life. That might be a little audacious to think because I’m 75 pounds overweight, but I’m working on that.
I’m not ready to die just yet because I’m not finished living out the purpose God put me here for. I have paintings to paint, hugs to give, books to write, friends to make, jokes to laugh at, babies to hold, photos to take, advice to give, questions to ask, teams to coach…I could go on and on.
There’s little chance I’m going to change the world with any of the above, but at a minimum, I’ll leave a ripple, maybe even a wave. Traditional thinking would say, at 45 “your chances are fading.” I would offer an alternate and less jaded opinion that says I have more to offer in the way of “wisdom” now that ever before. Why would I have started writing about a life yet lived? I’ve built quite a resume of life exposure over the last 45 years that will benefit someone along my path.
And in the end, like the boy throwing the starfish back into the ocean, if help one person along this journey, I’ve change that person’s world. That’s my life purpose and I firmly believe we all share that same mission – to change the world by helping those we come in contact with. It could be something as simple as a smile to someone having a bad day, or putting dent in your bank account to help that young couple at church that just lost both their jobs and found out they are having a baby. You can find a way to make one person’s world better without looking far.
So until my work is finished, I’ll stand by my statement…I’m prepared, but not in a hurry, to die.