Sunday, August 26, 2012

What will really matter as we near the end of life?

Vinita Dawra Nangia

At the end of our lives, we all ask, ‘Did I live? Did I love? Did I matter?’” – Brendon Burchard

The untimely death of a colleague, someone with whom you interacted, exchanged pleasantries and indulged in some healthy competition, is bound to leave you regretful and reflective on the uncertainty of life. And when the one who passes on had known the end was near, you wonder what went through the person’s mind in the days and weeks before the end. Those who have reported near-death experiences, have talked of experiencing a vivid rendering of their entire lives played out like a movie, the light they see at the end of the tunnel and of love and acceptance. While doctors have dismissed these as delusions, what science has failed to dismiss is identical surges seen in brain activity of terminally-ill patients moments before death, which seems to provide evidence of the near-death experiences. However, even if we were to allow the scientists their skepticism, it does seem plausible that when life nears end, we would most likely take stock of the way we lived and the impact we made, if any. Did we make the most of the gift of life that was given to us? Did we achieve whatever we came here to achieve? Do we have any major regrets? Are we leaving behind unfinished tasks? And yes -- did we make a difference? Think of the panicky feel as a holiday nears end. Did we make the most of the days? You try to pack in as much as you can in the last few hours and promise yourself better organization next time! Only now, as life is ending, there is no next chance – at least none that you can be assured of. One of the most meaningful thoughts on this issue I have come across is that of leading world motivational trainer, Brendon Burchard’s, “At the end of our lives, we all ask, ‘Did I live? Did I love? Did I matter?’” In his book, The Millionnaire Messenger, Burchard goes on to say, “At the end of your life you will want to know if you really lived your life fully – your life, too, not the hopes and dreams of your parents or teachers or peers or spouse…. ” Christopher Hitchens, English-American journalist who died of cancer in December 2011, wrote in Vanity Fair, “It does concentrate the mind, of course, to realise that your life is more rationed than you thought it was…one thing that grave illness does is to make you examine familiar principles and seemingly reliable sayings….” Let us reflect on the things that one would want to be assured of before hitting the bucket. Surely you would like to know that you drank deep of life’s nectar and lived a full life with all your senses alive to the beauty and possibilities offered! That you dreamt big, fought for your dreams and achieved the potential you were endowed with. This would answer the first question Burchard poses – Did you live? Love, they say is what makes the world go round. We enter life to learn all about love; love is not just a balm for the soul but also helps us onwards in our spiritual journey. So what lessons in loving did you learn? Did you love deeply enough, and were you loved back intensely in return? Did you, at least once in your life, experience an intense love, that blocks out all reason? Consider this -- nobody who is dying has ever regretted giving lesser time to work, though many have regretted giving lesser time to love and family! Were you able to give love and loved ones your all – be it a parent, sibling, spouse, lover or child? So, Did you love? And lastly, nobody wants to feel insignificant. We all have our own place and importance in the Universe. So never doubt that your existence serves a certain purpose and you are important in your own way. Did you take your role seriously enough and try and make a dent to life, as Steve Jobs put it? Did you take risks and follow your heart when it dictated things that reason raised eyebrows at? Did you touch lives and make a difference? In effect – Did you matter? As Ian Fleming put it, “You only live twice. Once when you are born and once when you look death in the face.” We do not know whether we prepared for our birth. But surely we can start preparing ourselves with answers for life’s posers as death stares us in the face?

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