From our earliest memories, humans seem to be hard wired to covet – to want some “thing,” the pursuit of which will give meaning to our mundane, day to day lives.
This could be anything; a particular career, an education, material objects, wealth, an idealized physical appearance, love, power, adulation, family, respect and admiration – you get the picture.
People spend their whole lives pursuing their “thing,” some more successfully than others. They think that when (and if) they finally get what they desire, all will be good – they will feel completely fulfilled and life will be full of peace and contentment.
They are wrong.
Here’s how I know – because I am an ER nurse, I have spent a significant amount of time with suffering humans near death or in the process of actively dying. Some of my experiences outside of work occurred in my personal life to people I knew and loved deeply. Because of my profession, I’m not talking about one or two – I’m talking about hundreds. I have also had the paradoxical privilege of being diagnosed with something that I might have died from quickly – but I somehow survived, which prompted me to think long and hard about what was important and what wasn’t.
These experiences changed the way I think about life in a powerfully transformative way. Here’s what I learned:
The only thing that’s important when you are about to die are the ones you love and those who loved you.
Nothing else matters – not what you did or didn’t accomplish, not how much money you made, not how famous you were, not what regrets you may have, not the dreams you did or didn’t pursue, and not the power you had. Because all of that is gone the minute you stop breathing.
The only afterlife is the part of you that will live on in the memories of those you touched.
Try to remember that while while you are alive.