I know it’s a rather morbid idea, but every once in a while I like to imagine what the last day of my life will look like. It’s more a matter of intellectual curiosity than grim preoccupation.
I can actually trace back to the moment when I started doing this. It all started with a phone call I received a few years ago. A friend of mine called me up and said he had some bad news for me. It was more than bad news though; it was terrible news.
This is What Happened
Apparently a mutual friend of ours was flying a plane when suddenly the engines gave out. It’s a small Cessna aircraft so the only passengers were himself and his co-pilot. As his plane dropped in free fall, he would have known he wasn’t going to survive.
His last actions on Earth were to steer the plane in a direction away from as many people as possible. This would have been hard for him to do since his plane crashed onto a busy road in a residential area in a suburb of Chicago.
He and his co-pilot were killed instantly on impact. There were no injuries on the ground.
I hadn’t seen this friend in almost three years since I graduated college. But still, his death had a huge impact on me.
To put things mildly, death is an unpleasant idea. Even though I know it is inevitable and will one day happen, I hate thinking about it. It’s something that will happen much further into the future.
I’d much prefer to think of life as something to celebrate. Why not just live for today?
That’s the way I used to think before the accident. Live in the moment and enjoy every moment. It’s great to be alive.
Here’s the thing: I still think like that. Life is glorious and each day I wake up to see the sun overhead, I feel nothing but gratitude.
Before and After the Accident
But before the accident I felt as if I was just paying lip-service to the idea of living for today. At the time of his death I was working in a job I couldn’t stand and in a relationship that simply wasn’t working. Is that what it means to live for today?
His accident made me face some difficult, painful questions. For me, the biggest question is this: If I die tomorrow in an accident, will I be thankful for the life I’ve built for myself?
This was an extremely hard question for me to answer. For many parts of my life, I quickly answered yes. Some parts I answered no and a handful of other areas of my life were uncertain.
That’s not good enough. I want to say yes to everything. I want to say I’m thankful for everything I’ve built for myself in my life.
In a completely unselfish act, my friend steered the plane away from people on the ground so no one would get injured. So when I think of the last day of my life, I wonder if I’ll get to do anything as thoughtful.
On the last day of my life, I wonder if I will have built an amazing life for myself.
On the last day will I have people around me who love me?
Will I still be paying lip-service to the idea of living for today?
I’m optimistic. Eventually I quit that job I hated. I stopped that relationship that wasn’t working and found a loving, beautiful one with a wonderful woman.
I owe a lot to my friend. In a way, he saved me just as much as those people on the ground. You might think I’d be sad thinking of the last day of my life, but strangely enough I feel hope. For now I still have enough time to build a beautiful life.
photo credit: fatboyke (Luc)