I read a story about a young man that was diagnosed with AIDS and had only been given six months to live. This young man wanted more than anything for this death sentence to go away. It would have been easy to simply just give up. But this young man went on to do something extraordinary. From that day forward, he began to squeeze every moment out of every day. He later acknowledged that this diagnosis was also the greatest gift he had ever been given.
It didn’t change the fact that he wanted things to be different or that the he and the people around him were sad. It didn’t change how he felt cheated. And of course, he wished he had more time. But this terrible virus did change how he approached the rest of his life.
Here’s the thing, when each of us are faced with our own impermanence, suddenly we remember, we are alive.
Anyone with a near death experience afterwards can tell you that the air all of sudden tastes sweeter. Holding your loved one feels more special. The sunsets are more beautiful. You begin to notice the little things. And the things we thought were important aren’t so much anymore.
I’m sure for this young man there were many tears. I also know that he danced and he loved and he cried and he felt and he learned and he cherished more in those six months than most ever experience in a lifetime. Because he decided to lean in. And if this how the journey was going to end, he was going to decide how to walk the path.
There is an end of the road for all of us. Everything is temporary. It always has been. It’s the big moments that shake us and remind us this is the only time we got. A short window here on this Earth.
When Henry David Thoreau died he was only 44. His last words he muttered were, “Now comes good sailing.” I take comfort in those words. This isn’t goodbye. This is part of the story.
If tomorrow (or six months) from now was it, how would you approach today?