Monday, April 25, 2011

DAY ONE: 30 Days to a No-Regrets Life

Though people are so different, we all have some things in common.
Birth and death WILL happen.
The birth of a person is such a fun, acknowledged process. We throw baby showers for the parents and child as we prepare for the arrival of a new life. Births are not overlooked and much thought/time is put into making sure everything is in place.
Why do we not do the same to prepare for our departure? Not many people want to think about death, yet we will ALL die. Why do we run from such a certainty as though it will go away if we ignore it? It is made a hush, hush thing and such talk is inadvertently classified as, “morbid, disrespectful, inappropriate and wrong.”
What is even more unique is that we CANNOT prepare for our birth because we obviously had no choice in the matter. BUT, we CAN prepare for our death (literally and by the way we live our lives.) However, most of us choose not to give it very much thought or time. It is too depressing.
I DO have one friend who taught me so much. She is my age and was diagnosed with aggressive cancer. It hit her hard, but she didn't stay down long. She accepted the certainty of her death as well as the fact that she nor any doctor knew when that would be. She planned her funeral, wrote her letters, chose her casket, made arrangements, bought her 3 yr old daughter her 1st training bra to have when she needed it . . . and so on. THEN, she began living! She got the icky stuff aside and put the info in a box for a friend to know what to do. Her husband would only have to help her kids when/if her death came sooner than she hoped. That was the end of that. She is still very focused on LIVING and ENJOYING EVERY MOMENT of her life!! I took a lesson and prepared the necessary paperwork just in case of a freak accident. My stomach felt sick while I was sorting through everything, but I felt a great relief once it was complete.
Granted, there is no need in dwelling on the inevitable, but to pretend it will not affect our lives is a bit ridiculous and unwise. We will not lead a happy life being held captive by the lingering reality of the end, yet accepting that there is an end will assist us in making the most of our time.
For some reason, my own mortality has always been a reality to me . . . Even as a small child, I maintained an acknowledgment for death when it came to my life as well as those I love. I have often wished that death was a more discussed topic in our culture, thinking it would be of the utmost help during the unavoidable grieving process death brings. When and if I mention how my mind thinks about this topic, most people look at me as though I have a third (or possibly fourth) eye. It is avoided talk, like the plague. Therefore, I don’t mention it a lot anymore . . . but I still think about it.
I take so much interest in walking through a cemetery and looking at a person’s final representation. It is the ultimate piece of artwork. What piece of art could be more important or hold more value than one displaying a person’s life? I even have a dream of custom making caskets and urns. (Thank heavens I cannot SEE the distorted facial expressions on many a face as that line is being read! . . . {whisper} FYI: Place your pre-purchased, custom made, bedazzled casket/urn orders by emailing! J) I envision having a business to help people properly, thoroughly celebrate a life. I imagine being like Jennifer Lopez in “The Wedding Planner,” only I will be, “The Funeral/Celebration of Life Planner.” It is strange to most people, but not to me. I think life is worth living and worth celebrating.
I was pleasantly surprised yesterday that the topic at church was about death and how we live our lives. It was clearly inspired by the life and death of Jesus on this Easter weekend. He lived His life to the fullest and was prepared for His death. The good news is that we can also accomplish such a thing. We can focus our lives and can also hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness.”(Matt 25:23)
The pastor mentioned the start of a class called, “ONE MONTH TO LIVE . . . 30 Days to a No-Regrets Life,” and encouraged everyone to participate in some way. In short, the concept is, “What would you do differently if you KNEW you only had 30 days left on this earth?”
The authors of the book are Kerry and Chris Shook and their book, despite what many may think or predict, made it on the New York Times Bestseller list.
I am not very good at attending classes, but since this one just lasted for a month and I would only have to commit to attending four times . . . I knew I could handle that. (Not to mention, I am actually trying to get myself back in church the way I should be doing in the first place!)
I attended the 1st class last night.
We all gathered at my aunt and uncle’s house. It is not my place to judge, but by observation, I am going to guess that by the end of this month, the 2 of them will discover that they do not need to make many changes in their lives. They really have done a remarkable job living full, productive, life changing/altering lives in many ways. I only have this one biological aunt, and I have always said, “If the seat beside God is not already taken, it will be when my aunt gets there. She will be hanging out with Mother Teresa, her “heaven bff” . . . no doubt.”
Anyway, I liked the class and the book. The main focus so far is to reflect and think about your life. It is suggested to visualize your own tombstone, which is not a comfortable thought. In addition to your name, you will see the dates of your birth and death displayed . . . and in between, there will be a dash (-). How did you spend your dash?
Also, we were asked to summarize our lives in a short sentence. What would we want on our stone? What would we want people to know remember about us/our life? (I haven't done that yet.)
I liked the quote mentioned in the book by Harold Kushner. It says he is convinced that we are not nearly as haunted by the fear of death as much as we are by fearing something else. Possibly, we fear that as far as the world was concerned, “we might as well have never lived.” I read that 2 ways, both spoke to me. One was the way he intended it, which is the way I wrote it. We want to have made a difference in this world when we go.
The other way was what I “heard.” I interpreted his words differently. I initially thought he meant that in the big picture, we are so small, most of the world really will NOT know of our existence. Therefore, we may as well live a pleasing life to God and be who we are called to be. It all comes down to us and Him, not the world. Both are true.

We were to quickly think, if we KNEW there was only ONE MONTH left here, what are 5 things we would change about how we live our lives?

For me personally, here are my things:
1.       Attend church like I should and be more serious about my prayers and talks with God. I would quit waiting for He and I to get more connected “soon.” We’d get connected NOW. Our communication barrier would be quickly torn down.
2.     I would tell my kids more things . . . Things about my life and their childhoods. I would let them ask me anything. I would make sure we made a memory and they could reflect, “Every night, my mom, sister and I talked about random things.” Even if it was just a month long memory, at least we would have made it.
3.     I would go on and take the plunge with my book. I would stop dragging my feet and get through my final editing quickly. The call would be made to the real editor and I would ask her if she could put an “editing rush” on it. If I only had a month, I’ve probably already lost the time to see it printed and sold “in a store near you!L I would be finding a way to see if it could be a success and touch lives in some way . . . even if I had to personally hand it out to people. Also, I would no longer care if anyone knew who I was. Kasi and I would be one person and she would look exactly like ME!
4.     I would STOP CARING if people liked me or not and I would cease fretting over those who have a wall up in my direction. I would stop trying to tame the wild animals and enjoy time with the ones who love to be with me. The people who I love the company of and receive peaceful vibes from their spirits.
5.     Re-learn the books of the Bible and make sure my kids did too.

Of course, there are a few more things; but that’s enough for “DAY ONE.”
          Last night, I asked my daughters if we could just sit and talk (#2 on my list.) They were not too thrilled, but consented. I told them we could put a 5 minute limit on the talk, so they would not feel trapped. I told them silly stories, like, “When I was in kindergarten, the principal came in while we were lying on the floor for nap time and I started crying.”
They sighed in unison, “AWWWW!”
I also told them that I remember running down the hall in the 2nd grade. We had been told not to do that and that we would get a paddling if we did. A little boy and I ran down the hall. The teacher came out, I said I did NOT run, the boy got a paddling and I did not. That was the only time I remember blatantly lying . . . it obviously was not worth it as it STILL haunts me. I should have taken the punishment . . .
About an hour later, after some really good laughs and talks, I tucked my girls in to bed. We had a great night time talk with God (#1) and discussed how great it was to go to church (#1.) We went through the books of the Bible, but we did not successfully get them all correct (#5.)
It was a good day and if it would have been my last day . . . I accomplished all I wanted to in the hours that day held.

29 more days,

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