Live Like We Are Dying

The phone call. The knock on the door. Some unexpected bad news just never arrives gracefully. In an instant we learn that a loved one is terribly ill, injured, or already dead. One second we are zipping along with our daily routines; the next second life jerks us into shock, disbelief, and grief.

A young woman with a rope engaged in the sports of rock climbing on the rock.This happened to me afresh almost two weeks ago when I received an early morning call that a long-time friend and former coworker had died. An undetected medical condition turned his normally upbeat self on a dime and his wife called to tell me he passed. What??!!! Fine on Monday. Dead on Thursday.

Almost all of us can relate to receiving unexpected news of a loved one’s death. Some of us hunker down in denial. Some of us spill out our frayed emotions. Others of us swirl in a combination of numbness and outward angst. As mental health professionals advise, grief can tumble and toss us about with varied responses, all fluctuating throughout our days.

One thing I’ve learned over the years about sudden loss and grief is to give myself space and grace. None of us feel the exact same emotions in the exact same way at the exact same time. While grief is a shared response to loss, it’s also an individual journey.

I’ll never forget driving across the northern Kansas flatlands returning from one of my last trips to visit my failing dad in Nebraska. Tim McGraw’s hit “Live Like You Were Dying” came on the radio and I was both belting out the lyrics and bawling. “How’s it hit ya, when you get that kind of news. Man what ya do. And he says, ‘I went sky divin’, I went rocky mountain climbin’,…And I loved deeper, and I spoke sweeter, and I gave forgiveness I’ve been denying,’ and he said ‘someday I hope you get the chance, to live like you were dyin’.’”

The unexpected phone calls and knocks on the door are a part of living on this planet. So do we tense in anxiousness over the likelihood of losing someone? How do we prepare ourselves? I venture that we live each day as it comes with appreciation for those we love. We look for the little everyday things to savor, the unexpected joys that make us smile. We choose not to focus on the some day, but focus on the right now. We live like we are dying.

What do you think helps us to focus on living the right now? What are ways we can live today like we are dying?

Brave and Resilient Tip #110: Focus not on the some day but on living the right now.

Taking Care of Today

I used to roll my eyes when my journalism professor directed our class to write
another obituary. I thought to myself, Whatever. How boring, how mundane.
Is this what it means to be a writer? 
Today I wrote thirty-two obituaries, and
instead of rolling my eyes, I dabbed at them with a tissue. 

     — Excerpt from Lifting Our Eyes, p. xvii

I wrote those words six years ago after the shooting tragedy at Virginia Tech. Last week as I thumbed through my Lifting Our Eyes book, I ran across the story of the engineering professor recalling the killing rampage. I share part of Mark Stremler’s account with the hope that you will pause today and pray for people painfully affected by the unimaginable brokenness and agony of violence in our world.

Mark eyes dart out the window toward Norris Hall, but something keeps him from picturing what
really happened right below his office the morning of April 16. The silence in his conversation stretches into a forty-second pause. The words won’t come, but the terrifying sounds of gunfire do.

The sounds are so methodical. Bang . . . bang. . . . bang
. . . bang . . . bang. The yelling has a panic edge to it . . . .

Mark stops. Blinks. Squints his eyes. The vacant stare settles in. The silence
lingers once again.

I’m not sure if bullets are hitting off the ceiling below me, but I can feel the
vibrations on my office floor. Feeling the vibrations make this surreal situation
real for me. My hands start to shake. I hear sirens. I think about my family,
my wife, and four kids. I pray asking for the shooting to stop, for God to protect
me. . . to protect all of us. Finally the gunfire ends. . . .

I find myself sitting somewhere or out running when suddenly I flash back to
that morning mentally. I’m really not consciously aware, but I go there in my mind.
God protected me well, I was never in immediate danger on April 16. I just have
the memories of hearing and feeling the gunshot vibrations. The tragedy makes clear
the importance of my faith. Every day you never know what tomorrow holds,
so you need to make sure that you take care of today.

iStock_000000350369MediumTaking care of today. It’s really all we are meant to handle. We can visit the past, but we’re not to linger there. We can anticipate the future, but we’re designed to live in this hour, this tight span of minutes. With the many waves of violence surging throughout our world, perhaps taking care of today is our way to stay tethered to the people and blessings we don’t want to live without. None of us have guarantees on tomorrow, so as one mass shooting survivor reminds us, let’s make sure we take care of today.

 Brave & Resilient Tip #24: Take care of today. “. . . and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow” (Matthew 6:34, The Message).