If the end of this day was the end of your life, would you feel that you have lived completely? Will your last words beg for one more day or one more week at work? Is the money you have made and saved for retirement your greatest achievement? Was it ever? Will the last conversation you have had with each person be a true reflection of your being? These are tough questions that for the most part we don’t ask ourselves enough. We are alive in a wild time, in a delicate body. Over 6,000 people die every hour, which equates to roughly 150,000/day. Can we be 100% certain that it won’t be you or me?
The last sentence reminded me of a class that I took in college, Leading as a way of Serving. This is not what I thought I was going to write about today, but such is the process! The theme of the class was ‘live like your dying’, which as I mentioned in a previous post, led me to start skydiving (wonder if Tim McGraw ever thought that would happen when he wrote the song). I digress, one assignment was to write out what we would do if we had only ‘7 days to live’, spoiler alert: it wasn’t go to exotic places. Along with that we had to ask a loved one (my mom declined), to write our obituary. Asking my sister, see also: best friend, to do this was tough enough. Thanks to the almighty ‘cloud’ technology, I found my assignment from almost exactly 7 years ago, with the obituary dated November 19, 2009 (how’s that for synchronicity). It stunned me how clear my thoughts were, with the main difference being that this time I burst into tears after reading it; I did not allow myself the pleasure of crying often back then. Having found this piece of history, I’d like to share it with you. I hope it helps you as much as it helped me.
Mark Maier Ph.D
Leading as a Way of Serving
November 24, 2009.
“Seven Days to Live”
The constant theme in this class other than servant leadership has been lead a life worth living, and live it to the fullest. This exercise opened my eyes to yet another inevitable truth. Too often I go through the days, weeks and months without thinking once about how fast my life could be over. I always say I live my life to the fullest and with no regrets, but this assignment made me realize that I have not always been true to that. I realized that I have been holding back, not from doing what makes me happy, but instead from saying to others what is on my mind and how I feel about them. I didn’t realize this as much until I talked to my aunt who just recovered from breast cancer, and how there were so many things that I never told her and that I might not have been able to if her body wasn’t able to fight off the cancer. Then I started thinking about all of my other friends, family and acquaintances and how I rarely tell them how important they are to me, or how thankful I am that they are a part of my life. That created a large change in my outlook and I have since started sending out random texts of gratitude and calls, just letting people know that I am glad I know them and that they are amazing people.
This exercise also made me realize how fortunate I am, and how many things I take for granted like my physical shape, athletic abilities, education, and my extensive travels. At the young age of 21 I feel as though I have accomplished a lot, and had the opportunities to do things that even most 80 year old people have not done in their lifetimes. People aren't often in the situation to do these simple exercises that put life in perspective. As part of telling people how I feel and sharing my experiences I have started telling people about the things we are doing in this class in particular and how they have sort of reshaped my outlook on things in the past few months. My goal is to stay cognitive of the possibilities and to keep these new insights at the forefront of my life. To keep sharing, helping, leading and serving others in any way that I can, any time that I can. It is time for me to really open up and stop holding back my emotions and feelings for others, because life is too short to have regrets and grudges.
"Carpe Diem! Rejoice while you are alive; enjoy the day; live life to the fullest; make the most of what you have. It is later than you think. "-Horace
Eulogy/Obituary per Summer DeHart (my sister)
Joseph Dalton DeHart
December 27, 1987 - November 19, 2009
“Shoot for the moon. If you miss, you’ll land among the stars” -Brian Littrell
Today is a day of grieving and celebration. Grieving the loss of an amazing young man and a celebration of the life he lived. Joe DeHart was my brother and friend. He could make anyone laugh and always had a way of reminding me of all the fun times we had together. When Joey when to college he left his family to explore the world and meet new people. He became a big brother in his fraternity, organizing activities and welcoming new boys into his college family.
On Joe’s last birthday, his twenty-first, twenty of his friends came to celebrate. Joey knew how to celebrate life whether he was toasting a birthday, sky diving or traveling the world. Joe sought every opportunity that was available to him and turned it into a fun and rewarding experience. Today we grieve that we can no longer celebrate with him but today we celebrate in remembrance of the person that knew how to make everyday a celebration.
Thinking about everything I would have missed out on from then to this point reminds me to be grateful. For my friends, family, my brother in law Justin, my new niece Charlie Rose, and you. I am thankful for each and everyone of you. Thank you for being you and shining your light, and allowing me to be me. It's time to make that phone call you have been putting off, mend those broken bridges, make peace, and remember to celebrate life. We both know you deserve it.
Much Love and Stay wild,
“If our lives are meant to have meaning and purpose we are going to have to create them. People are different, so they are going to create different things. That a feature to be celebrated, not eradicated” -Sean Carroll, The Big Picture.