The Relationship Between Death and Life
Death Can Cause Us to Live Life
Again, I would like to thank Mike
Schmitt for having dinner with in me in Chicago. I finally understood
something that was apparent to a person who I had just met but was not apparent
to me. I have written many essays about that dinner conversation. After
listening to me go on and on about what was important to me, Mike simply asked
whether I had seen Randy Pausch's Last Lecture,
which I hadn't. I told him that and went on, still wired about life,
essentially unaware of the transformation within me. Mike sent me a link to
Pausch's Last Lecture. That one lecture caused me to realize that I was living
at a much higher and more intense level even though I hadn't realized it.
Pausch gave his Last Lecture at
Carnegie Mellon University while dying of pancreatic cancer. Nonetheless, he
was more alive than anyone attending that lecture. Pausch said during his Last
Lecture, "We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand."
Then pausing, he added an interesting reflection, "If I don't seem as depressed
or morose as I should be, I'm sorry to disappoint you." He would die in nine
months, but he was truly alive until then.
Pausch understood that death was
in his cards as it is for all of us. Therefore, he addressed that reality.
The thing that transformed him was the manner in which he lived life. Many
others, who will be dead in less than a year, wouldn't be enjoying life as he
Others have made similar points.
Norman Cousins wrote, "Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest
loss is what dies inside us while we live." We fear not only death but also
life. We wander through life without realizing that we possess the greatest
William Wallace, who fought for
Scottish independence, said, "Every man dies. Not every man really lives."
Death is a given. What troubled Wallace was that living life isn't a given for
Having done the dance twice
already, I have several suggestions for my readers as they grasp coming face to
face with death. Initially, that assertion might seem counterintuitive.
Nevertheless, doing the dance provides the best benefit to becoming truly alive.
Here are some suggestions you might wish to consider.
One of my goals in life is to
Burns. I have less than 27-years to go before I obtain my dream of
reaching 100-years and several weeks. That means that I have to go beyond
March 9, 2043. That may seem an unrealistic goal. However, it is a part of
who I am. Don Quixote, a mentor of mine, dreamed the impossible dreams also.
Set a goal for yourself that is seemingly beyond your reach. Then pursue it
I am keenly aware of medical
issues that I have had or might have in the future. Therefore, I will take
care of any medical issue that arises quickly. Putting off acting is not an
operative response if I want a long and healthy life. Not acting quickly will
stunt obtaining you various goals in life.
Every day, I do 45-minutes of
cardiovascular exercise. Whether it is on an elliptical trainer, a kayak, or a
bike, a good cardiovascular exercise program is the one thing that I can do
that can assist me remaining healthy. I do not have control of various genetic
issues stored in my DNA at conception. Nevertheless, I do have control over
some things like exercising every day.
I wrote to my children and
reminded them of my goal to outlive George Burns, which they have known for
decades. However, in that email, I was quite clear that living was more than
Living is, for me, more than simply breathing in some vegetative state. I had
a foretaste of something that I would not wish to replicate. At the time, the
medical professionals understood that I would recover, which I did. However, I
vividly recall what a semi-vegetative
state was like. I want to live. If I cannot live, pull the plug.
Get involved in something even
after you've retired. I haven't retired, and I am 73. I'm still teaching and
won't quit. I love teaching. However, if you are retired, you need to find a
reason for being. My family, teaching, changing the world, and writing are my
personal reasons for living. Then there are my two preschool grandsons, Jack
and Owen. Talk about a reason for living being on steroids. Watching them as
they begin exploring the world is a wondrous joy.
Thank people. Randy Pausch said,
"Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can
do for each other." Pausch is correct about the effect upon the other person.
In addition, it helps me appreciate how indebted
I am to others. Neither you nor I have made it this far without help from
many people. Thank them now before it is too late for them or you.
Be honest with those around you.
Try to resolve issues of conflict. Running around mad will kill you even if
you think that you are correct in the disagreement. Life isn't infinite.
Tomorrow might be too late to resolve issues.
The Chinese culture holds their
older generation in high esteem. It is not that the older person is smarter
based upon IQ. However, they garner experience during their many years of
life. That experience provides insights that those without decades of
experience can't acquire. I have made it a habit to talk with those that
predate me in age. I won't always agree with them, but it is a learning