Thinking About Dying

I think about lots of things when I run. Today, I thought about the ring and necklace found sealed in a mug in the Auschwitz Museum.

If you run, work out, or otherwise exercise, and if you think about things when you do it, you might enjoy this book by writer extraordinaire Murakami.

I’m a list junkie. I make lists just for the fun of crossing things off my lists. A few days ago, I was looking through some paperwork and found an old list I wrote up of Things to Think About. Right in the middle, between ‘vitamin D metabolism’ and ‘who/whom?’ is ‘Think about dying.’

Beware the Blink of an Eye

Hang on to that and move to television. I watch The Americans. It’s the best show on TV, but I am a lousy judge – it’s the only show I watch. This week, after retiring and working at a life that he felt was important, John Boy from The Waltons, here an FBI station chief, is approached by the bad guys. He attempts to flee through a closed glass door and a shard of glass pierces his stomach. He lays there, and in a matter of mere minutes, his life and hopes and dreams and loves leak out in a mess on the floor around him. I turn to my wife: this can happen to any of us at any time. One blink, and it’s gone.

When my father was dying, when he knew he was close to death, he stopped me one day.

“Denn, sit down,” he said. “This is important.”

I had no idea what he wanted to tell me and sat down on the couch across from him.

“You know, Denn. For my whole life I’ve had this list of things I would do if I had six months to live.”

I had no idea. He’d never mentioned it before.

“Now, I’ve got six or four months, who knows, and not only do I not have the strength to do the things I wanted to do, but I don’t have the will to do anything. It’s all I can do to wake up and walk to the couch. So let me tell you something. It’s important.”

I still had no idea what to expect. I nodded.

“You think you’ve got twenty or ten years. You think you have next month or tomorrow. But let me tell you: you don’t. You’ve got nothing. You have right now. Not tonight, and not tomorrow. Not a year from now. If there’s anything you want to do, do it now. I mean today. It’s all you’ve got.”

And that was it. Knowing he was dying, that was the keystone wisdom from my dad.

So what did I do when he died? I bought a Porsche. I sold it later, but it was great. And every day I got behind that steering wheel was a good day. And every day I got behind that steering wheel, I thanked my father for his wisdom.

My Blink of an Eye

Since then, I’ve had my own blink of an eye.  It was in May of last year. I was on a bicycle training ride when I was hit by a car doing 65 mph. I spent three months in the hospital with other folks whose life had changed in the blink of an eye. I’ve come to respect that eye. That heartbeat of time. In one moment, you think you’re in charge, and you know everything. In the next, you’re hurt and wondering who you are and what went wrong. I have a new view of what a one in a million chance means. I’ve lived it and spent months at a hospital for people who failed the once in a million chances test.

Now, when my kids need me for the fourteenth time, or when my wife wants to watch The Americans, or when the dog stares at me with such a pure love for the alpha male that it’s comical, I try to enjoy the moment knowing that at any minute the bad guys can break in and everyone’s world will change.

Cheers! (It’s meant to be a happy thought!)

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A journal for you to complete your own bucket list. So you’ll know what to do today!

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