I don’t want this post to be morbid but it starts out that way. The main theme is living life to its fullest, but first let’s talk about death.
Death is inevitable and unforeseeable. It can occur suddenly at any time, or it can approach slowly and predictably.
As I get older (and particularly as I approach that ominous statistical factor—the average life-expectancy of a male living in America) I often think about final experiences, because for everything I do in life, there will be a last time I do it. There will be a final time that I eat dinner with my family, embrace Mary, sing For the Beauty of the Earth, see a sunset, visit London.
This thought doesn’t bother me; it doesn’t make me anxious or fearful. To the contrary, it’s beneficial because it reminds me to savor every moment of each day and to delight in experiences both great and small … to approach every experience as if it were my last time to do so.
For instance, the last time we visited Dubai I said to Mary, “This is probably the last time we’ll ever come to Dubai, so let’s enjoy it fully.” Though we go to London every year at Christmas, last year may have been our last. You get the point.
This exercise in crafting perspective requires negotiating the inevitability of death with the immeasurable joy of living.
To end this post, I’ll defer to poets.
Thoreau encouraged us to live fully in the moment when he wrote, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived…I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.” (from Walden)
Hermann Hesse wrote,
“Life passes like a flash of lightning
Whose blaze barely lasts long enough to see.
While the earth and the sky stand still forever
How swift changing time flies across man’s face.
O you who sit over your full cup and do not drink,
Tell me, for who are you still waiting?” (from Klingsor’s Last Summer)
You never know when you’re experiencing something for the last time so enjoy every moment of life.
18 Replies to “When will you eat your last meal? You never know when you’re experiencing something for the last time, so enjoy every moment.”
So true, Don. As a former Police and Hospital Chaplain, you’re on point when it comes to “making the most out of each day.”
Now retired, in 50 years I’ve gathered a lot of comments from those at death’s door, most of them beginning with “I wish I had…”
Thanks, Don, for adding to the conversation. The phrase “I wish I had…” is haunting.
Enjoyed reading this article much. It really hit home with me and where i am in my life about to enter into retirement years. I currently don’t have plans for what i will do in retirement yet but reading this makes me realize how much i have missed and enjoyed in my life so far.
Ed. I hope your retirement years will be filled with meaningful activities and experiences. It will take time to recalibrate your daily schedule. Be sure to include time to read good books and visit interesting places. Don
I’m joyfully humming Rutter thanks to your post. (Love, “For the Beauty of the Earth” from my IL choir days with my husband).
Great reminders. While we all have “lots of stuff” to think about and do daily, this was a good reminder to seek out that which is most important and be cognizant of what is truly important. Thanks.
Jan. Rutter’s arrangement of that hymn is beautiful. Thanks for the reminder.
Thanks for this reminder, Don! I think it’s one we all need on a regular basis. In these recent years, after rearing five children, my husband and I have enjoyed our solitude and moving at a slower pace. However, we find that the energy to host older grandkids (i.e. who can drive) for occasional breakfasts brings wonderful conversation and memory-creating. Today, 3 of them came for breakfast and then a 4th in the evening (for a snack, of course) as he had questions on caring for a pool. God’s gifts are many and varied. We just need to open our hearts to them, savor, and give thanks.
Sharon, I’m happy that your grandkids live nearby and that you spend time with them. I do so with my 6 year old grandson, Benjamin.
Thank you for that!
Rhonda, thanks for taking the time to respond with kindness. Don
I loved this, Don. I am prone to looking at the mundane, forgetting to see the beauty of the life in all creation. Every blade of grass, every leaf, every person, every experience . . . they all have life on loan from our creator. The sweetness of life is all in how thankful we are for the gifts of today from Jesus. Sometimes we have to get older to see how wonderful He has made the earth. Our times are in His hands. Love this blog.
Thanks, Kay, for your beautiful (almost poetic) response. You’re right, our lives should be enveloped in gratitude, for things large and small. Don
I very much enjoy all your works. And find them thought provoking. This one is very timely in several ways. At our age it is so easy to spend a lot of time looking back – so many experiences, so many blessings and yet so many things we would still like to do. Time is no longer on our side. Actually, it never is. Recently I was thinking about priorities. and what I should be doing with my time left. But how much time do I have? What should I do before the Lord calls me home. In 2003 I was doing something unimportant while my son was repairing the engine in his car. It was in our garage. I continued to do my thing and he his. 3 weeks later he was killed by a drunk driver.
First thing to do? Ddon’t miss a single opportunity to be with any of your children. We could travel anywhere in the world. Don’t violate that first thing because it may be the last thing.
Then just this last Tuesday a friend and relative of my wife’s sister died suddenly. I just read your blog. He was a wonderful devoted family man: three grown children and 5 grandchildren – he was 71. He went to a Brewers game, played 18 holes, was going down the elevator in his building and didn’t reach the first floor. He really loved baseball, coached basketball, retired from teaching mathematics and spent most of his spare time with his grandchildren. Did he know he went to his last Brewers game, played his last game of golf, or hugged his grand children? No! Your article really hit home.
Would I love to conduct “The Majesty and Glory” one more time – absolutely. Would I love to sing “The Lords Prayer” one more time. Yes.
But, I live in His grace. And I don’t challenge his time. If i’m working in my garden, cheering on my kids in their endeavors, singing in the choir, working in my woodshop, or enjoying a quiet time holding hands with my wife. He is in charge and I need to make the best of every moment. Thanks Don for the confirmation.
Ed, your writing touches me deeply. I am so sorry about the death of your son. I can’t imagine the pain of that.
You have lived a full and vigorous life, and I have no doubt that you’ll live life fully all the way to the end. I had a medical event this past weekend (extreme vertigo)… the week this post came online. I’m fine now, but it reminded me again of the frailty of life and underscored the most important thing…serving God and spending time with those you love.
I love this post Don. Your thoughts are mine. Probably more so at my age than yours. I do hope to travel more I’m hoping there will be many more times before I die.
Thanks, Meg. I want to live till I die, and travel is part of that plan. I hope we can travel with friends again soon. Don
Good one Don – I am 78 and often think “This may be the last time I get to do this or that – My wife Sandy and often remember past events ( vacations – special times with our kids and grand kids- trips in the RV – other life events) and thank The Good Lord for the opportunity to have experienced them – We drink deeply from this pool of memories and are truly grateful to God for them – Rod Taylor
Rod, thanks for taking the time to respond. You have lived a good life; that’s why you have many good memories. Take care, Don