Live Like You Are Dying

"Live Like You Are Dying" by Judith Costello (CatholicMom)

Courtesy of Judith Costello. All rights reserved.

A trip to Iowa to see my 91-year-old mother was a time for lessons about loving, living and dying. My mother is not sick…she still goes to Jazzercise and she looks like she’s in her 60s. But any of us could go at any time. And at age 91 that truth is present like a shadow.

On the way to see my Mom, I was thinking about my daughter, who lost one dad last summer to suicide and another (the one she considered her real dad) in April. It’s been a rough road navigating grief while dealing with the emotional roller coaster of high school, dating, health issues and life’s changes.

I read a book by Richard Paul Evans on the airplane. It’s about the death of a little girl in a fire. The arson was meant to hurt her father but instead the child dies. Life is filled with tragedies and sadness. What is it that allows us to continue…perhaps to live a full century of life?

The only answer has to be to “live like you are dying.” To recognize that ever-present shadow and then to do the right things, the daring things and the eternal things. The song by Tim McGraw says part of this…if we live like we are dying, we will seek a richness in life that is filled with both exhilarating experiences, things like forgiveness and “sweet words.”  That’s what I want my two children to remember.

What McGraw’s song hints at is that we don’t want an eternity of regrets. My mom showed me that she wanted none of that by something she did. At her church they were going to have a Groundbreaking Ceremony, marking the beginning of work on a new building. The pastor said “We’ll have shovels. Come and join us.” But of course such events are merely symbolic and it is the dignitaries who don the hard hats and hold up the golden shovels to pose for pictures.

But my mom told me to put her shovel in the car. Then after the formal ceremony was over she said, “I want to dig” and that is what she did! She didn’t care that she was the only one not formally invited, who picked up a shovel. And she was the only one who brought her own shovel. It wasn’t about being a part of a ceremony. It was about living life fully and joining in something she believed in, without regard for appearances!

Life is too short to be worried about what other people think. And life is also too short to make enemies out of people who could be friends. When my daughter went to the ER for a health concern she was angry at life. It made me think of my husband Jurgen, who died only a few months ago. He’d been in the ER many times. And no matter how much discomfort he was in, he always put the doctors and nurses at ease by telling jokes and treating them with the greatest respect. He told me one time, “If you are at the mercy of people with a needle or a knife, it’s a good idea to convince them you want to be their friend. You’ll get better service and maybe a friend, too.”

My good, elderly husband and my mother, both were aware of that lurking shadow, and they are teachers about what will make eternity a place of no regrets. It’s best to live fully because the shadow has the knife. But heaven is the place for people who dig deeply into truth and righteousness, beauty and wonder. Then the shadow does not win.

Copyright 2016 Judith Costello


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