I have a t-shirt that says, “My own mortality will be the death of me yet.” Some people laugh when they see it, some don’t understand it, and others put forth a quizzical expression. But the fact is, with life comes the comprehension that we will someday die.
I can remember as a small child, the first time that I became aware of the fact that I would someday die. I recall that I couldn’t fathom the reality, as my life was just beginning, and the actuality that I would eventually perish seemed abstract. Then what was the purpose of life? Why are you born to only die? Being young, like being old, affords you the time to reflect on issues that get obscured or repressed during those years you are too busy living the life. We can put the realization out of our mind; pretend it doesn’t exist, or like some, hope they are exempt for the inevitable. But the certainty of impending death is inescapable.
We spend much of our life, not living in the present, but thinking about, and planning for later. The living of this minute, day, or week, is often postponed or delayed, when it can be rescheduled for a time of enjoyment. The daily grind of life often forces us to live for tomorrow, and just try to get through today.
However, life is short, and you only get to live each moment once. There are no replay buttons, or rewind. Although we must carry our past forward, we must ensure that each moment provides us with more than a plan for the future. Each day is precious and we must allow for each of the moments that shape what is to come. But, happiness cannot be saved for another day.
So what does one do? How do we encompass our now, knowing what the future holds? I have always believed that moments of joy and contentment should be savored. They should be stored in a special place in our mind, where they can extracted, and re-enjoyed, when life isn’t going so well. These moments of happiness can be used like a sedative to calm and soothe the soul and rejuvenate the spirit.
I also believe that today should not always be traded for tomorrow. We must be responsible for our destiny, and ensure that we progress in life in a positive manner. But those obligations should not obscure, or burden the enjoyment, of today.
Today is real, and is here now. There is always a possibility that tomorrow will not come to fruition. Of course, I am not suggesting that you should merely live for today, and ignore tomorrow. I have prepared for my later years with the usual requirements for sustaining my lifestyle. I have shared my life with others, and others have shared theirs with me. This has required that we all give up something for another. But it does not require that you give up all.
I have lived life to the fullest, given the restraints that have stood in my way. Life does not come with a set of instructions. Sometimes you feel your way along, like traveling in the dark without a light. Use all your senses, and most of all, enjoy your life each and every day, as it may be your last. I truly believe that you should live well, love much, and laugh often. After all, death is always just around the corner for those who live.
Copyright © 2014 by John D. McCann
The above essay is included in my book “The Layers of Life” published 2014.