If YOU die today…”
It has been little over a year since I dodged death. But to be honest and humble, I perhaps found life in the palms of death. It happened on just another normal evening after supper sitting in front of the television going through my emails. I began to experience a strange choking feeling in my throat. I raised my head to breadth properly and within a few very short seconds I passed away. I recovered within a few seconds and was trying to understand what was going on. I proceeded to lay down on the floor and rest my legs on the couch in order to improve the blood circulation to my heart just in case I was having a syncope episode where the blood gushes to the feet and the heart has trouble pumping it back up. This usually cuts the level of oxygen flowing to your brain and hence you faint. But within a few moments I passed away again. And this continued to happen while the paramedics were called in and I was rushed to the Emergency.
I had a near death experience where my heart failed to produce its electrical pulses and a Pacemaker had to be put in to keep it going. Soon after the few fatal episodes of fainting due to the oxygen not being passed to my brains as my heart failed to beat, I woke up at the ER with a temporary pacemaker placed through one of the arteries through my neck.
In the next few days that followed I was going through a series of test before a permanent pacemaker was eventually going to be implanted. While I lie at the Cardiac ward awaiting the day to come and go soon, I was overwhelmed with thoughts and memories about my life, and the realization of how short life can be. The series of fainting episodes left an extremely disturbing imprint in my memory. I saw how it would be to die.
The world around you begins to appear fuzzy while you mind rushes through an agonizing confusion with series of thoughts of fear. Your mind races through several thoughts where you are hurting thinking of the ones you are going to leave behind, your list of regrets, all the things you want to say to the people who matter to you most, while you are struggling to grasp some sense of understanding of what is happening to your body and try to take control. You want to say so much realizing that this could be your end in this world but you are at a total loss of words trying to cope with what is happening to your body. You draw blank stares at the loved ones beside you, your life flashes in front of you in a series of short pictures from your childhood until now and everything about your life seems immaterial while your relationships and love for those who matter most appear to take supreme precedence.
While those dire moments played in an endless loop in my mind, I lay in my cardiac ward questioning the creator and why I was chosen to be the 1 in a million to have this problem. I was rebuilding my life again and doing all the right things in life to stand upon a new found courage and wisdom where I began to make serious efforts to become a better and positive person. I couldn’t get the “why me?” out of my mind regardless the fact that I was well aware that it could have been worse and this was nothing compared to the millions of kids and innocent people who are suffering with much more severe and fatal conditions for no fault of theirs.
The night before the surgery, I took a walk around my ward to relax a bit and ease the anxiety a little. It is required by law for the doctors to inform the patients of all the things that could possibly go wrong during this rather simple surgery. Hence I was given a brief synopsis of the process with a dose of tragic possibilities that I could encounter. Essentially a 50/50 chance of life as they would like to put it and leave me with the advice to “relax”. Hence I needed a little stroll through the ward to hide my emotions overflowing through my eyes. While I was walking around observing the other patients and the hospital staff, the tirelessly serving and caring nurses and watching the tired and depressed looks in the eyes of other family members of other patients, I was stopped by a couple of posters that caught my attention that were hanging on the wall by an exit door.
One read this:
Watch you thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become your character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.
Needless to say this did have a profound effect on me and my way of thinking about life. Especially after experiencing firsthand how short life can be and things can happen so suddenly and turn your whole life around or end it.
We are often very careless of our own behaviour and the effect it has on the people we interact with. We about life as though we have all the time we can to say and do things without thinking of the effects and consequences that they make have on ourselves and others. As we proceed towards our final destiny we seldom stop to think about ourselves or analyze our actions, deeds and behaviours. We hurt others, become greedy, do and say things without paying any attention to its meanings and how it is perceived by others, do not care about others, and choose to live life as though we have nothing to do with others and this world and we can only care less about them. Yet we rely on others for their compassion, help, assistance, friendships, love, guidance, support, kindness, wisdom, courtesy etc. We expect the world to be fair to us, nature to be kind, resources to be endlessly flowing, weather to be mild, systems to be fair, politics to inconsequential on our individual lives, etc. One day comes along when we will have our kids and younger generations look up to us for our wisdom, guidance, support, assistance, kindness, compassion, empathy and help just as the world we share today does from us as well. And yet we seldom pay attention to our character. We continue to expect everything and at times demand all that we desire regardless of the fact we are worthy of them or have earned the right to have them.
But if we truly watch our thoughts, pay attention to our words, be mindful of our actions and carefully control our habits, we can certainly build ourselves a fine rewarding character that will pave our success and destiny. For when we are nothing more than just a tomb stone, the world we leave behind shall only remember and love us for our character, and the deeds we have left behind.
The next poster hanging on the opposite wall was a famous quote by William Penn:
I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again. ~William Penn
Next day, I went through the procedure and thankfully the Doctors talk about what could go wrong proved to be another futile effort. No I live a near normal life appreciating everything around me with grate love and pleasure. Every little experience I have I try to enjoy it thinking that it is yet another moment of life that I could have missed. But above all, I am more focused on all the things I could do now with this new leash on life.
One of the most profound idea I had got from this experience helped me truly focus my this life on much more meaningful things and lead a more purposeful and gratifying life. It was to write down a letter titled “If I die today…”.
Like all things that are rare and limited are most valued and precious to us, our life becomes too dear and lot more meaningful when it comes close to its end. You cling on to every single breadth; cherish each single moment, and every single person becomes too dear to you. And your whole past life flashes in your eyes as you get overwhelmed with the feeling and need to undo everything you did wrong, undo every hurt you caused, express your love to several people and say how much they mean to you and disperse off all your wisdom to those who may use it to grow into fine young people and perhaps remember you with fondness.
The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear. ~ Socrates
In such times, regardless of how callous you were with your life and considered your “I don’t give a damn..” and “F-you” attitude as being impressive, all you wish for is to get a few more moments to try and make your life a bit more purposeful, meaningful and valuable to others more than yourself. Your personal need for happiness, wealth and success has no meaning any more as your loved ones and their personal needs and future become of supreme interest to you. Such is life, when death takes hold of your hand to pull you away from all that you took for granted.
I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer. ~Jim Carrey
So, one fine day, in my pursuit to make my this life more meaningful and purposeful, I began to write my “If I die today …. “ letter addressed to those who mater most in my life. Every time I attempted to write it, it pushed me to rethink and evaluate myself through the eyes of others in terms how I am perceived and valued, and what have been my true accomplishments and blunders in my life. It also helped me realize the need to change for the better immediately and do all the good things I can for each person that I interact with. This stems from the new found underlying wisdom that life is too short and all that you leave behind is a hand full of memories in the minds of the people you have touched and especially those who have touched you. Hence, leaving behind memories that inspire them, bringing a smile into their lives, making them feel loved, valued, cherished and above all the lessons they learn from your life become of utmost importance in your life. You gather the courage to accept your mistakes, reach out to the ones who you have hurt, undo the ill will you have nurtured all those your arrogant life, learn to see others for the good in them as opposed to their faults, and realize that you have the power to bring the best and the worst out of others by the way you interact with them.
Life is a series of family photos in which you keep moving to the rear until finally you’re a portrait in the background. ~Robert Brault
I urge you to take the time to try and write your “If I die today… “ letter or at least ponder on what it may say to those who you will leave behind. If anything, it will certainly help reflect and redefine your core values, and purpose in this short life of yours. It is a very fragile, intensely complex and highly unpredictable world we live in today and we mostly live with a sense of entitlement and careless audacity infused by our ego, good health, ample time on our hands and the promise of endless possibilities. But it all comes crumbling down and forces you to reconstruct your beliefs based on meaningful relationships and purposeful living the moment you are threatened of ending everything that you have taken for granted. Like everything about life, your end just happens to spring up upon you when you least expect it and it often happens due to reasons beyond your control.
Never ask, “What reason do I have to be happy?” Instead ask, “To what purpose can I attach my happiness?” ~Robert Brault
Write your version of the letter and be prepared to be profoundly surprised and amused to learn the countless things in your life that you need to be absolutely grateful for and understanding the need to bring about the changes in your this very moment, especially towards those who matter the most to you.