What Would You Do If You Only Had a Short Time to Live?

A teary Isaac Luna (my uncle) while watching the casket of his mother being cleaned up before going to the burial ground.

“Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.”

– Eric Fromm

The recent death of my uncle’s mother Auntie Jackie put me in a state of mind that I think we all go through at different times in our lives: the feeling of utter isolation, of complete loneliness.

There are times when we feel that even if we are surrounded by other people in our lives, we are alone. We must go through this difficult journey called “life” by ourselves, no matter if we’re married or if we have children or close friends. And that’s a very lonesome prospect.

How do we overcome these feelings of loneliness and despair? While common, these feelings can be dangerous if we let them go too far — they can lead to depression, suicidal thoughts, or just a slump in our lives.

The answer is in connecting with other human beings.

When we connect with other humans, we are no longer alone. We share our suffering, our experiences, our common trials. The misery we face is no longer insurmountable when we have someone to face it with us.

“Love one another and you will be happy. It’s as simple and as difficult as that.”

– Michael Leunig

It’s hard, from within the storm of every day life, to see things with real perspective, to know what’s important and what’s simply pressing on our consciousness right now, demanding attention.

We have people emailing us for information and requesting action, we have phone calls and visitors and a long to-do list and a million chores and errands to run and all of the slings and arrows of our daily reality … and yet, what is important?

Ask yourself this: if you suddenly found out you only had 6 months to live (for whatever reason), would the thing in front of you matter to you?

Would those 20 emails waiting for a response matter? Would the paperwork waiting to be processed matter? Would the work you’re doing matter? Would the meetings you’re supposed to have matter? Would a big car and nice house and high-paying job and cool computer and mobile device and nice shoes and clothes matter?

I’m not saying they wouldn’t matter … but it’s important to ask yourself if they would.

What would matter to you?

For many of us, it’s the loved ones in our lives. If we don’t have loved ones … maybe it’s time we started figuring out why, and addressing that. Maybe we haven’t made time for others, for getting out and meeting others and helping others and being compassionate and passionate about others. Maybe we have shut ourselves in somehow. Or maybe we do have loved ones in our lives, but we don’t seem to have the time we want to spend with them.

When was the last time you told your loved ones you loved them? Spent good quality time with them, being in the moment?

For many of us, doing work that matters … would matter. That might mean helping others, or making a vital contribution to society, or creating something brilliant and inspiring, or expressing ourselves somehow. It’s not the money that matters, but the impact of the work. Are you doing work that matters?

For many of us, experiencing life would matter — really being in the moment, finding passion in our lives, seeing the world and traveling, or just seeing the world that’s around us right now, being with great people, doing amazing things, eating amazing food, playing.

These are just a few ideas … but what would matter to you?

I highly recommend that you spend at least a little time now, and regularly, thinking about this question … figuring out what really matters … and living a life that shows this.

How do you live a life that puts a great emphasis on what matters? Start by figuring out what matters, and what doesn’t. Then eliminate as much as you can of the stuff that doesn’t matter, or at least minimize it to the extent possible. Make room for what does matter.

Make the time for what does matter … today. Put it on your schedule, and don’t miss that appointment. Make those tough decisions — because choosing to live a life that is filled with the important stuff means making choices, and they’re not always easy choices. But it matters.

Spend time with your significant other, show them how important they are. Take the time to cuddle with your child, to read with her, to play with her, to have good conversations with her, to take walks with her. Take time to be in nature, to appreciate the beauty of the world around us. Take time to savor the little pleasures in life.

Because while you might not have only 6 months to live, I’m here to break the news to you: you really do only have a short time to live. Whether that’s 6 months, 6 years or 60 … it’s but the blink of an eye.

The life you have left is a gift, so enjoy the present. Cherish it. Enjoy it now, to the fullest. Do what matters, now.

-AG