When folks talk about their last month, week, day, or moments on earth, it surprises me. Too few of us, based solely on my own experience, would go down without a fight; too few of us would spend the final few moments on course, living the same quality of life they were living up until the moment before their end was sealed.
When I watched Ric Elias‘ video, “3 Things I Learned While My Plane Crashed,” I was impressed by how circumspect Mr. Elias is. The life he saw flashing before his eyes might have been imperfect, but the first thing that came to his mind, were he to survive the day, was seeing his kids grow up.
I never want to face my last year, month, day, or hour with regret – Chris Abraham
My dad almost died in a motorcycle accident when I was ten. Were it not for a meatball surgeon at Straub in Honolulu, a man who had served in a M.A.S.H. unit in the Vietnam Conflict, my dad would have lost a leg. Were it not for the nurses and my mom’s vigilance, infection surely would have taken him.
Unlike Ric’s experience of desiring to become a better man and work harder and connecting with his family and children after meeting Death at it’s door, my dad, Bob, took another tact. He chose, rather, to clean house — which included distancing himself quite a bit from his wife, my mother, and also me, his only child. I do not begrudge him.
What he wanted his life to be like and what his life had become were way out of phase. He wasn’t living the life he wanted to live even though he was living in paradise; he didn’t feel the sort of respect and appreciation he might have expected for all the work and grind he put in; and he probably felt immensely frustrated that no matter how hard he worked, he couldn’t make enough money to sate his family’s needs and expectations. It must have been torture.
No, it wasn’t easy for my mother or me; he didn’t abandon us, he provided as well he could; however, he did indeed suck the marrow from his life from that moment on. He surely was able to chase his dreams and explore his creativity until the day he died of a massive heart attack a little more than a decade after that. I daresay that were he to have survived his first and only myocardial infarction, I don’t know if he would have made any changes at all, though who knows how fulfilled his life really was in the end; and, I believe he probably greeted Death with a big wet kiss on the lips.
Mind you, he was beholden to someone else from his teens. First the Marine Corps, then a first wife, a second wife, my mom, and then me. My heart goes out to him that he had been suppressing, repressing, and even disguising his true self for so many year; and, my heart goes out to my mother for needing to go through this trauma herself with a son and 3,000 miles between her and her family in New Jersey.
I hate to be maudlin but I applaud Ric Elias for living a life so close to his true nature that meeting death just made him want to get closer to life he already lived — to pay more attention and more care to what he already had. To become more open and vulnerable to the family he had already made.
I believe this is the way I hope to meet death. Rather like Ric Elias than Bob Abraham death #1: I never want to face my last year, month, day, or hour with regret; I never want to drop everything as the asteroid that’s going to end life on earth reaches its final approach in order to check off as many Commandments as possible before time ceased to be, for me: adultery, check; murder, check; coveting, check, etc. And I surely don’t want to meet my maker feeling like something has remained unsaid, undone, or a Mortal Sin hasn’t been forgiven.
While I don’t live an ideal life and I have yet to enjoy the marriage, father, husband, or grandfather experience, I have no regrets right now. Since I am just me, I guess anything I could regret is entirely my fault for not doing.
And that is something I need always remember, it’s about living life to my own personal fullest as defined by me: I always need to be careful about feeling inadequate because I have not lived life to the fullest as defined by celebrities, Nobel laureates, the super-rich, the jet-set, and the landed gentry. In my innermost heart, I have no desire to indulge in an orgy or in swinging. I am not very repressed so if I am not already acting out like a syphilitic royal, rolling around in flesh, rich foods, and bathing in wines and spirits, these things are probably not my cup of tea.
So, while I surely would love to see how I would have behaved were I to win last week’s $588 million PowerBall, I would like to think I wouldn’t act much differently; in much the same way we may change our lives drastically when we come into money, how would I really act facing death or cheating death?
I hope I would behave like Ric Elias: experiencing death as a good man; surviving death aspiring to become a better man. Amen.
Watch the TEDTalk that inspired this post. Originally posted on The Huffington Post, Living Life to Our Own Personal Fullest Before We All Die.
Ideas are not set in stone. When exposed to thoughtful people, they morph and adapt into their most potent form. TEDWeekends will highlight some of today’s most intriguing ideas and allow them to develop in real time through your voice! Tweet #TEDWeekends to share your perspective or email tedweekends@huf?ngtonpost.com to learn about future weekend’s ideas to contribute as a writer.
- Ric Elias: 3 Things I Learned While My Plane Crashed (ritholtz.com)
- Second Life is a decade old (chrisabraham.com)
- 3 things I learned while my plane crashed: Ric Elias on TED.com (ted.com)
- What Runs Through Your Mind As Your Plane Is Crashing? (wnyc.org)
- Living Fully for Father’s Day (writingtofreedom.wordpress.com)
- TEDWeekends asks: What if your life were to end today … (ted.com)
- Sneak peak from my life’s diary – A lot of because, a few if’s and a little bit of this and that. (hiranazir66.wordpress.com)
- Life is Love (wileyschmidt.com)
- Leaving Heart Break In The Past… Nina Dobrev Is Living Summer To The Fullest! (socialitelife.com)
- Facing death can change your life: 3 lessons from a Hudson River crash survivor (attendly.com)