What Would You Do If You Knew You Would Die Today?
Would you want to know the day and time you were going to die, if you had the option? We all die. Someday you will take your last breath and everything you know, on this earth, will disappear. If you know that the world is fallible, that your body is slowly failing, and that someday you will die, then why do you live as if you will be here forever?
If you knew you had weeks, days, hours, or minutes to live, would you waste any moment drinking in what was left of your life? What would you do? Who would you call? What would you say? These are relevant questions, right?
Recently, I had the pleasure of listening to Vallie Collins, a survivor of the doomed US Airways flight 1549, the flight that crash landed in the Hudson River in New York City, and would forever be known as the “Miracle on the Hudson”. Vallie was the keynote speaker at a conference I attended. She spoke with a passion and clarity of a person that faced death and lived to tell about it. I was captivated as she recounted every detail to include how she felt as the airplane plummeted into the frigid cold waters of the Hudson River at 160 mph. It’s amazing that all the passengers on board survived.
What was memorable about her talk was what she took away from the experience. She said, “My perspective in life changed the moment I safely pulled myself out of the plane alive.” She spoke with authority when she recounted how she felt as her plane descended helplessly into the Hudson. “I will never see my kids grow into adults. Who they will marry? How will they turn out? My heart ached,” Vallie whispered to us.
When the danger was over and she was safely home and back to her life again, she felt a pang that stung deep within her soul, “I had to ask myself, how would I have been remembered? Was I kind to the taxi driver that dropped me off at the airport? Was I pleasant with the ticket agent before I stepped on the plane? Would people remember me as a kind person?” The hard answer she had to face was that she was just not sure and so she vowed to change that aspect of her life. “I’ve come to realize that kindness is key to life and that you don’t know when your moment will be your last.” When she concluded her speech, you could hear a pin drop in the audience. Vallie had our attention. She quoted Mother Teresa, “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” She thanked us for our attention and politely sat down to roaring applause of appreciation from the crowd.
Later in my hotel room I thought about Vallie and her experience. I came to this fundamental conclusion, it should not take a life threatening event for us to realize the value of time and that our heart beats are finite and will someday stop, but our legacy will live on after us. The question is simple, how bright will your light shine after you are gone and how better off will the world be because you lived in it?
For me, I don’t want to know when I’m going to die, because I don’t care. All I know is that I have now, this moment, and I choose to live it to the fullest. I choose to leverage the gifts God gave me and hopefully I will have an impact on the lives around me. How about you?