Not long ago, and just weeks apart, I crossed paths with two people who cheated death. Both people had rare ailments that almost killed them. One woman spent several weeks in a coma, and the other’s heart stopped, and he needed a little jolt of electricity to bring him back to life. I thought about how frightening it must be to get that close to leaving this world.
After hearing about these near-death moments, I couldn’t help thinking about my mortality. Woody Allen and Irish writer/comedian Spike Milligan have both been credited with saying, “I am not afraid of death. I just don’t want to be there when it happens,” which is about where I stand on the subject.
I have often heard that there is no avoiding death and taxes. The tax part is not always true. Some highly paid accountants have figured ways to help clients get around the tax piece of the puzzle. However, after spending many long hours (not really) contemplating the other issue, I have concluded that there is no way around the death thing. And because I dislike cold temperatures, I don’t think I am a candidate for taking a chance on the cryogenics route.
Unfortunately, at 61, losing people in my world to the Grim Reaper is becoming more common. Just between old age and cancer, I have lost many family members and friends. Not long after my interactions with the two people who had near-death experiences, another close friend died. I am sad that Jim is gone, and I will miss him. However, I am happy to joyfully celebrate what he left. He scattered himself throughout our community and the world. The world is a kinder and gentler place because he reached out to so many while he was here. His life made a difference, and it will continue to do so.
I don’t look forward to death because it will cramp my style, but at the same time, I don’t view it as the ultimate tragedy. As I view life and death, the ultimate tragedy is living in a way that you miss opportunities to make a difference in the world around you while you are alive. Some people miss opportunity after opportunity to make the world a better place. Many people go through life with an egocentric mentality. They believe the world revolves around them, and their immediate needs are all that matter. When they die, the world will be no better than when they arrived. They will not have helped change any lives, but their own.
I call this lifestyle a near-life existence because they never get to the best part of life. Near-life experiences are about bank accounts and “things.” People living in the near-life world often spend much time complaining about the world around them yet never lifting a finger to make it better. We often find greed when looking for the driving force behind these near-life people.
I have often written and spoken publicly about the path to true happiness as one of reaching out to people around you. A person living a near-life existence never feels the feeling of performing a random act of kindness. The near-life existence prevents a person from ever feeling what it is like to give someone in need a hand up. It lacks that smile you give and get when you help someone. People living those near-life existences never feel the amazing feeling you get when you help improve another person’s world. As sad as death might be for those who live on, I can think of nothing sadder than living a life void of those feelings created when you reach out to another.
The opposite of near-life experiences are real-life experiences. A successful and rich life is measured in real-life experiences. Real-life experiences are about people, and you feel them in the heart. Magic is found in those real-life opportunities, and once a person knows the difference, they crave the real-life experiences.
My request and suggestion is that you try to create one real-life moment every day. I promise that your heart will let you know when you have found one because that is what your heart does. Finally, let’s make sure we spread the word to our youth and adults who don’t yet understand it — the best things in life aren’t things.
by Tom Gerdy For The Huffington Post