I’ve lived a life formulated for longevity: eating right, exercising daily and savoring friendships and family. Despite this, I still came down with cancer two years ago. I’ve been treated with chemo, radiation, major surgery, and now, with spread to the liver, I’m back on chemo. I’m still here and truly feel blessed and thankful for every day, but you can understand why lately I’ve been thinking about death.
Loving my enemies has made this easier. As our kids were growing up, I would find myself saying to them, I will always love you unconditionally, but sometimes I don’t like what you are doing.” We should say that to our enemies, too. Here is the lesson: hate is poisonous, especially to the one who harbors it. Remember what Jesus said (as did Mohammed and Buddha), “Love your enemy.” I believe hating others, even when justified, only destroys us. When angry, we should point the anger at what he or she is doing, not at the person. Use it as propulsion to fight to the tooth for the cause . . . but let go of hate. How is this related to death, you ask?
When people ask me how I contend with the prospect of my dying sooner than expected, I go right to the opposite of hate, which is love. I know it sounds clichéd and unoriginal, but the word love embraces the spiritual, inner-warmth I feel when I value the other person (even if he or she is my enemy). Truly valuing others gives more meaning to my time limited life and helps take away the fear of my own death . . . but there is something more.
Some say, “One day, you’ll be just a memory for some people. Do your best to be a good one.” That’s not bad advice, but I think the measure of our worth, after we die, has less to do with being remembered and more to do with the reflection of our actions in others. It’s that Pay it Forward or that Jimmy Stewart Wonderful Life sort of thing. I believe meaning and purpose comes with the good that we do and how that moves others forward (whether they’re aware of it or not).
Our lives are all like a book that becomes more precious as it nears the end, especially by savoring friendships and family, by letting go of hate and by paying good deeds forward. Why waste any time fearing death?
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