The passing of a dear friend in Virginia recently has gotten me thinking about the fragility of life, and about what would happen on the day that I die.
To begin with, we all have a very high and dysfunctional opinion of our importance and about how much we matter to those around us. We forget that kings and queens, presidents and dictators, billionaires and millionaires, chief executive officers and members of the senior executive service all have a final date on the calendar.
When one of us receives a medical diagnosis of a terminal condition, our first reaction is to place our hopes on a medical breakthrough that is just around the corner. Because of the inflated opinion of ourselves, we think that we’ll pay whatever amount of money is needed to prolong our life indefinitely. In our delusion, we think that the world cannot function without us being a part of it. But medical breakthroughs are more dependent on research than on profit margins or our immediacy.
When our time comes, it’s time to say goodbye. While this may sound harsh to some, there is no way to make it more palatable. It is what it is.
So, here is what will happen on the day that I die.
All those important appointments that I marked on my calendar will result in “no shows,” and I will not be charged any penalty fees for them.
The calendar that ruled every minute of my life will become irrelevant.
All the time that I wasted surfing the Internet will be replaced by communication via mental telepathy.
The obnoxious e-mails and texts of those who objected to my conservative transformation will no longer be of concern to me. I’ll become impervious to such nonsense. They don’t realize that life is a journey, and not a destination — and, as such, people evolve after acquiring new knowledge and exposure to new situations.
The friends who stopped being my friends because of my recent political views will fade away from my consciousness. They were the ones who took the unwarranted decision to unfriend me, not I.
All robocalls, telemarketers, spam texts, and phone scammers will stop annoying me.
My regrets about the different paths that I could have taken will remain in the past forever – where they should have always stayed.
My perennial concern and that of my late mother with the birthmark on my forehead will dissipate.
My carefully crafted reputation that I worked so assiduously to maintain will be left to others to preserve.
All the deep anxieties that robbed so much of my sleep will be rendered powerless.
The big questions that I had about life and death, about damnation and salvation will be answered once and for all when I come face-to-face with my Creator.
Yes, all the things that I listed above will certainly happen on the day that I die – even some that I’ve left out.
But there is one more thing that will happen on that day – one that is so crucial that I’ve left it for last.
On the day that I die, the few people who really knew me for what I stood for and who loved me unconditionally will grieve me deeply.
They will feel cheated when I leave them.
They will feel a void that is unfillable.
They will feel that they are not ready to cope with my loss.
They will feel as part of their being has died as well, and they will never be able to grasp happiness again.
And on this day, they will cherish more than anything in the world to be able to spend more time with me — one more year, one more month, one more week, one more minute.
How do I know these things? Because I’ve seen close friends and relatives grieve in this manner.
And while taking the time to digest these truths, I will make it a point to recognize that my time with my family and friends is limited, and I will try not to waste a second of it.
I will stop worrying about the things that will happen on the day that I die, because the majority of these things are not of my concern or I have no control over them.
Those other things that I listed above have an insidious way of monopolizing your attention span and competing for your affections.
They have a way of robbing you from enjoying those precious “momentos” – those that Julio Iglesias and Andrea Bocelli croon about — with those who love you and want to share them with you.
Don’t waste the time to waltz with these false priorities while you can.
Don’t let others rob you of the life that they made you believe matters because on the day that you die, much of it won’t matter.
Of course, I realize that my fire-infused Aries personality has led me to live a life full of energy, passion, creativity, and optimism. I’ve embraced always the golden rule of treating others as I want to be treated. Awards, titles, degrees mean less to me than good character and values. The Man from Nazareth, the Man who had an overwhelming influence on the subsequent history and cultures of the world did not have a college degree, nor fancy awards or royal pedigree.
I also realize that the fire in my Aries personality causes me to have quite a temper at times. I do need some extra time to climb down from the mountain top, but the temper fizzles out quickly after I touch ground.
But I can be sure of one thing. And this something, I will always take with me as a badge of honor: I have lived a virtuous life, and I have no regrets.
I’ve made some mistakes during my journey, but I learned from them and became a better man.
And with the constant reminder of the Biblical passage in Genesis 3:19 that all of us are dust, and to dust we will return, I don’t want my family to spend one cent on purchasing a cemetery plot, or a coffin, or a mausoleum for the enjoyment of trillions of hungry bacteria and maggots. I want to be cremated.
And, yes, I want the playing of the late Eva Cassidy’s rendition of “Over the Rainbow” at my funeral.
So, yes, you and I will leave this planet one day.
But before we embark to the afterlife, let us live each day to the fullest!
And before it’s time to say goodbye to my loved ones, I hope that I have the foresight to tell them — more often than I’ve done in the past — the wise words of a life well-lived: I’m sorry; I forgive you; Thank you; and, most importantly, I love you.
Think of the famous Italian saying of “Eat well, laugh often, love much” and travel the world!