The Gift of Mortality (Revisited)

The Gift of Mortality (Revisited)

Life has a way of lulling you into complacency, given the series of recurring tasks and obligations that absorb our time and energy week in and week out.

Every now and then, you’re jolted awake by a change from the ordinary.

I lost one of my favorite cousins a few weeks ago. He was only a year older than me.

It was a shock. Very sad. It’s the kind of event that happens to “other” people you hear about on the news, not you.

#COVID was a factor and there is speculation that he ultimately succumbed to something that nearly took me out four years ago:

Regret is one of the most powerful motivators behind human behavior and these situations are an opportunity to recalibrate your thinking and adjust your flight pattern.

Here are two ways to utilize these situations of loss to help yourself and those around you:

1) Reconnect and Strengthen Ties With Those You Care About

If you’re all converging on one location, virtual or otherwise, you’ve got an easy “in” to get to know family and friends you are unfamiliar with.

I have a large extended family—along with a wide network of family friends tied together by shared experiences and heritage—so my cousin’s burial events were well-attended. Along with lots of “catch-up” conversations, several family members lamented that we don’t see each other enough; we should arrange more get-togethers, maybe an annual family reunion….something that encourages members of each generation to get to know one another better.

And even if you don’t go as far as hosting a family reunion, there’s value in reaching out to family, friends, even former co-workers that have you wondering “what-ever-happened-to?” when their names pop up.

No (wo)man is an island and opportunities to establish sources of support (emotional and other types) and quality-of-life allies shouldn’t go to waste.

2) Every Day is January 1: You Can Change Course at a Moment’s Notice

You don’t need to wait until New Years to re-think your life.

The beauty of life on earth is that you can decide to turn it around at any second. Life-changing events have a way of reminding you of just how much control you have over the direction you’re headed.

Remember the helicopter crash in 2020 that claimed Kobe Bryant? Countless people across the globe swore they would re-dedicate their lives and pursue their own individual definitions of greatness going forward.

(Whether those boasts were just fleeting spikes in motivation or the actual beginning of life-altering changes, the influential power of significant, unexpected news has to be appreciated.)

I’m reminded of some of the thoughts that went through my head after surviving a would-be fatal ailment back in 2018.

I spent nine days in the hospital, so I had plenty of time to think. What actually matters to me? What should my life look like going forward? I took stock of how I spent my time each week and decided to cut out a bunch of activities that weren’t priorities.

When your life flashes before your eyes, It’s easy to say goodbye to go-nowhere meetings and non-essential projects you really don’t care about.

Eliminate the unessential. There may be pulls on your time that feel like they’re necessary—they may not be. Prioritize activities that move your life’s work forward, align with direction you receive from the Holy Spirit, and bring you enjoyment.

Everything else should be triaged. Support family and friends for big events and decide what you’ll sacrifice for mundane ones.

And learn not to feel guilty about saying “no.”

During that recovery time, I was inundated with messages from family and friends, many sharing some of their own problems they were facing. Being sidelined from sports encouraged me to apply the same dedication I commit to training to helping others.

When you’re at the center of an event of some importance—be it a hospital stay, wedding, or funeral—you see how many people care about you and feel obligated to do best by yourself, which, if not completely-self focused, leads you to do well by lots of others. 

That alone time in the hospital graced me with the “Survivor’s High” that’s left after you beat something that claims many lives a year. Paired with a sobering look at my own mortality, I was imbued with a new sense of humility and reverence.

When one goes through any emotional ordeal, it can change you—at least, temporarily. Once you get further and further away from the event, however, you’ve got to be careful not to forget what you learned in the immediate aftermath. Periodically, remind yourself what you were thinking at the time of the event and take pains not to let “life” blur those lessons as the event gets further away in the rearview mirror.

Take some time today to appreciate how fragile life can be. Consider looking more into the role God can play in helping you become your best “you” and not squander your time and abilities. Big life changes are a great opportunity to do that.

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