How to Live and How to Die

Today my good friend Ben messaged me on Facebook as usual. He’s one of those guys who always has a crazy story to tell and naturally cheers up the room with his unique and open personality.

But today he wasn’t quite his usual self, spurting out insane stories about his latest adventure.

It’s never fun when bad news comes your way. It doesn’t quite matter how open your personality is or how many adventures you had last week, bad news is bad news.

Today he wasn’t as I normally describe him because his five year old cousin passed away a few days ago from Brain Cancer.

As I talked with Ben, I thought how just five minutes ago I had read another friend’s facebook status that read, “Just got home from my grandfather’s memorial service and there were so many friends and family there (the place was overflowing). I’m so thankful to have had such a wonderful man not only impact me for 23 years, but to have the opportunity to see how he touched so many others’ lives throughout the years.”


And so I sat here at my desk for a moment, and I thought about the difference between Ben’s 5 year old cousin and my other friend’s Grandfather.

I’m sure that 5 year old girl brought lots of joy into the lives of her family and friends while she was here, but she had so much more to do and give.

And I thought about why some people don’t make it to the age of grandfathers and grandmothers – why some of them leave us before they’re even in 2nd grade – why some don’t quite get the chance to overflow rooms with the people they’ve met throughout a long lifetime.

I’m not talking about “God’s Plan” or “Fate” or “Life’s a Bitch” kind of talk.

I’m just reflecting on how precious life really is. It’s important to do that – to reflect on the notion that we, in fact, are merely human. And while at the best moments of our lives we feel like we could live forever, the truth is, we won’t.

As French novelist Marcel Prous wrote, “We say that the hour of death cannot be forecast, but when we say this we imagine that hour as placed in an obscure and distant future.  It never occurs to us that it has any connection with the day already begun or that death could arrive this same afternoon, this afternoon which is so certain and which has every hour filled in advance.”

And that’s the thing about life and death – it’s not certain. And our plans are not as concrete as we think they are.

You can leave this earth at 5 years old or at 93 years old. It could be before you even know what life really is, or it could be at the end of a lifetime of experience. It could be over as period of time, or it could be in an instant.

Forgetting How to Live

Yet, even with this obvious knowledge, we still procrastinate and put things off and say that it could never work or be.

We still seem to juggle choices and decisions and pick the ones that scare us less and are the easier way out. Or worse, we never end up deciding.

We still seem to allow ourselves to live a life in which we don’t see it as a crazy celebration, but rather more of just sitting in a waiting room.

We still seem to forget to show our friends, family, and special someones how much we care about and love them.

We still forget to have a fun.

Learning how to Die

Of course, there’s really quite no way to truly predict when we will leave this place. And so, the only shot we’ve got is to live our lives right while we’re here  – to not let the five sentences above become a description of our personalities and habits.

Ashley Montagu told us, “The idea is to die young as late as possible.” When you consider this notion, you start to realize that she’s right.

It’s the young that are not calloused, that see not just the big picture but the WHOLE WORLD, that are less afraid of screwing up or getting hurt, and that put up a fight for everything they want.  They want the adventure, and they’re not scared to start it and they keep exploring while they’re on it.

And that’s really how we should be living.

Learning How to Live

People leave us at all stages. Some parents are forced to bury their children before they’ve reached 5, while some children have to bury their parents before they’ve reached 50. Some people leave us because the person in the other car drank too much, others because they feel they can’t take it anymore. Some people leave us at 93 with a room full of people standing in their memory, and some people leave us before they can even touch the lives of a few.

And so, with this uncertainty, don’t forget that you’re lucky to be alive. Don’t be selfish or careless with your time or the people in your lives. And don’t forget to take some risks and make big decisions.  Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the ride.

Because you really don’t know how long you’ll get to travel these roads. And because living by these notions isn’t just about learning how to live, but also about learning how to die.

If you take a look at the photo for this post, its a picture I found on DeviantArt in which the poster wrote in its caption, “its of my grandma when she was very young…probably in the mid or late 30s. Even though she is smiling its a sad picture to me. She was so young, so beautiful, so happy. Her whole life was in front of her. But now her life has been lived. It must have gone by so fast. Live each day to the fullest guys.

Because everyone dies”