Close your eyes, reach into the future and imagine you are at a funeral. Now realize the funeral is yours. Walk down the aisle and examine the faces of friends and relatives as they remember your life. What do you see in those faces?
Take a seat. Listen to the service and pay attention to what is being said. What important memories about you, the deceased, do people share now that you are gone?
As you watch and listen to your ceremony, do you feel comfort in what you see and hear or are you filled with sadness?
If such an exercise gives you a sense of well being you are lucky. You have lived life fully, without regret.
If the exercise brings up pain or guilt, relax. You are not dead yet and there is still time to change your destiny.
The sad truth is that everybody dies, but not everybody lives.
The Dalai Lama said it best. When asked what surprised him the most about humanity, he answered “Man.” Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.
With such a statement in mind, what then, constitutes living fully?
My definition is simple. It involves showing up and being an active participant in the only life you have.
Psychologists call living fully self-actualization and I see shining examples of this in the everyday lives of those around me. Whether it is a 72-year-old widow starting a university education, a blind kayaker running the rapids, a grandmother raising her grandchildren after her daughter’s death, an 80-year-old gentleman on the summit of Everest or children at play in the midst of third world squalor, they are individuals who inspire me simply because they have shown up and are engaged in the life they have been given.
Mercifully, today is not my funeral and neither is it yours. It is instead a day to reflect upon an ordinary life lived, the only one we are given, and a second chance to choose whether today will be lived as a spectator or a participant.
When today is done I will have no regrets if I choose a few conscious steps. I will spend time with my husband and tell him that I love him. I will connect with my children whose absence is sometimes an ache. I will give silent thanks for my great luck, health and family before I spend time outdoors and simply, live.
Dr. April Sanders writes on a variety of issues for The Vernon Morning Star. She is a physician at Sanders Medical Inc. Vein and Laser in Vernon, B.C.