As a man the age of 53, I still hope to have another 25-30 years of life ahead of me. Much of what determines my age of death is in my genetics. My grandparents averaged around the age of 84. That gives me about 31 more years. However, anything can happen in between and I mean anything. If I was told my life would end tomorrow what would I do? I’d have a steak, sauteed mushrooms, mashed potatoes, white gravy with a dozen fresh baked rolls. Oh, and a slab of bacon. Afterwards I’d enjoy a few rounds of beer and a cigarette. Yes that’s right, a cigarette. 29 years ago I gave up, cold-turkey, a 2-1/2 pack a day habit as a promise to my pregnant wife that I would set an example for our son who was on the way. Did I quit just for my wife? Not really, I knew the outcome if I continued to smoke. I wanted to live much longer.
This last week my son, who never took up smoking, sent me an email wanting to know what I would have to say if I called my grandson to my death bed with my dying breath. Here’s what I’d say, “I love you Brogan. Give life your absolute best. Have dreams, for dreams are the directions for the actions to be taken. If you respect me, then respect your parents. Don’t take things too seriously, especially high school and girls. Remember the fun things we did together. Oh, one last thing – pull my finger!”
I want laughter to be mixed with the tears. If he ever talks about me it will be something like this, “You know what that old-fart did to me?” Since I know my family line and his mother’s line, there is a good chance of frequent flatulation and I will always be on his mind. See, you have to think ahead.
This morning my wife and I, as we do very often, discussed friends and family and how life had not gone as we had planned and hoped, but that we would stand side-by-side no matter what, a commitment to an ageless and sacred vow I still recall and will honor as a man. We talked about people who seem to be waiting for something, instead of making something happen. I told my wife should I die early, our vow would end and to grieve no more than a month for me, then get busy living. There is to be no funeral, but a party to celebrate my life. I will be cremated and cast to the seas. I also made it clear I do not want to prolong my life with machines or man-made chemicals. Let me fart one last time and then let me go. As Aragorn said in The Lord of the Rings, “I do not fear death.” I have faith there is an afterlife.
As a CPA, I have had to deal with death in the form of financial advice and estate issues. I’ve seen the very best and the very worst of human nature in dealing with death and money. In the coming years, I will have to deal with the death of my parents. In my mind I believe I am prepared, but tell that to my heart. Watching a parent age, suffer illness and begin the process of losing memory is difficult, but a stage of life not few of us escape by a sudden death. In those waning days of the winter of life, we will find what we are truly made of. We will also begin to address our own mortality and decide what to do with the remaining time given.
However, my wife and me also decided that a conversation about death is self-defeating, and that we would convert all our energy and thought to living every single moment. I would rather die in my death bed and say, “Well I wrote 50 books in my lifetime and made 50 bucks” than to say, “I wished I had written that book.” Failure to live life is the actual loss of life. You are still going to die whether the critics loved your work or not. Take a chance and self publish your story. Some call it vanity, when in fact they say this as they stand before the mirror of envy. Do not let anyone, fame, or money define your self worth.
Maybe this week you should have a conversation about death. Hopefully it also creates the discussion for the passion of living. From there let it flow from discussion to action. You need not be rich to live a fulfilling life. In my trilogy, The Chosen One of Allivar, I present a reader with an interesting take on both life and death. The story is an epic adventure story, but a story, that should have you thinking about the fragility of life. I know this much, you reach a certain age and time rapidly flees from you, like a fart in the wind.
“All men die, not all men really live.” William Wallace
“Get busy living, or get busy dying.” Andy Dufresne