A Life Well Lived
In the last year a frighteningly big number of friends, family members, acquaintances and even celebrities have passed away. Death has been on my mind more so than usual lately even though I deal with it every day in my line of work. I am also getting older. Some of you may laugh but I am not 22 anymore. My priorities have changed drastically over the last couple of years. What used to matter so much to me now seems petty as I ponder the lives lost. Many of them way before their time. Just a few days ago I got news that one of my dear friends from high school had died. He was my age.
Being a German native coming to America, to the “home of the brave and land of the free”, was a dream come true and very exciting. I only knew it from the movies we used to watch and the music we listened to growing up. I have to admit I fell prey to the glitz and glam of the “American Dream”. The mentality here is quiet different from where I grew up. Here people live to work instead work to live. I got caught up in it all myself. Yet my friends’ passing was a reminder for me, how fragile life really is and how we often spend our time here unwisely. We just accumulate things and money and are in competition with each other but in the end nothing really fills the void in our hearts quiet like a good conversation with a dear friend can. Or dancing like no one’s watching. Or singing along to your favorite song at the top of your lungs.
How many times do we hold back and decide not to speak up? How many times do we choose not to forgive? How many times do we not embrace our loved ones for fear of rejection or judgement? How many times do we choose not to do silly things because we are afraid of what other might say or think about us? How many opportunities do we miss each day before we realize that it is too late?
I can’t help but wonder what went through my friends mind when he was passing? In that very moment. What was he feeling? Who was he thinking of? Did he think he lived his life well? Did he have regrets?
How do you know that you have spent a life well lived? Is it measured by the things you have accumulated or rather by the many different experiences you were able to have. Whether they were good or bad. Is it measured by the money you collected or by the hearts you had touched throughout your life? What is going to keep you warm at night deep within your heart? Is it the comfort knowing you have a full bank account? What if you have that and yet still you are completely dissatisfied with your life? You are alone and you are physically and emotionally drained. Or is it looking at the person laying next to you in bed knowing that he or she loves you and that although life may get tough at times at least you have each other to tackle all that life throws at you.
I know most people would agree that money and things aren't going to make you happy yet still we keep striving for them. The reason usually is the lack of love or joy that we are trying to fill with superficial things. Let me tell you, and I know this for a fact, you take nothing with you when you pass not even the prestige that comes with having lots of wealth in this life. You take nothing with you except the love that you were able to share.
I am not afraid of dying, partly because I know that there is a “life” after death. But it is not so much dying or “leaving” that scares me. It is living that scares me the most. It is living with regret and not using my time here wisely that I fear. I want to die knowing that there were people who loved me and I made sure to let them know and feel that I loved them too. I do not feel the need to change the world but I want to die knowing that I made a difference, even if its just a small difference, in someones life. That I somehow made it better. I want to feel like I had done the best I could in that very moment of my transition. I think then I would die knowing that I had a life well lived!