Ways of Excellence

Practical wisdom to help you to excel in life.

Just before Thanksgiving of last year, I received news that a friend I went to college with passed away. He was the same age as me and we shared the same birthday. I was shell shocked and deeply saddened by the news.

Then just a few days after Christmas, another friend passed away suddenly in a tragic accident. I saw this friend just a week prior to the tragic accident.

The following week I received news that an uncle who I lived with briefly in England also passed away suddenly. Making it 3 deaths in roughly 5 weeks.

A few days after that another friend almost died from an underlining ailment she had no previous knowledge of, and had to undergo major heart surgery.

Then to top it all, last weekend I heard about the tragic and horrific helicopter accident that claimed the lives of 9 people including Kobe Bryant and his daughter.

It was all just too much too handle. Never in my adult life have I received news of that many people passing away in such a short period of time.

The news of their deaths shook me to the core. I began to reflect on the mortality of my existence on this planet. As I reflected, I came up with a few major life lessons on death.

The major lessons that death taught me in a nutshell:

  1. Our time here is short.
  2. Live your life to the fullest. You only get this one chance.
  3. Make gratitude a habit. Gratitude for both big and small things.
  4. Live each day as though you are on borrowed time. Best cure for procrastination and avoiding distractions.
  5. Life is short. Life is fragile.

As I began to reflect on the impact my loved ones who passed away left on this planet, It really got me thinking about my own life and purpose.

I had to ask my self this tough question. …”will I be able to say I completed even half of my life’s purpose should the inevitable happen today”?  sadly No!

Asking that tough questions led to several life lessons:

1.Our time here is much shorter that we think.

Especially when we are in the prime of our youth. We think we have all the time in the world to do the things we want to do. The sad truth is we don’t have all the time in the world. Time is fleeting.

“Time and tide wait for no man” Geoffrey Chaucer

This verse from the Book of Psalms came to mind as I reflected on this truth:

Teach us to realize how short our lives are.
    Then our hearts will become wise. Psalm 90:12

There is so much wisdom in this verse. When we are fully aware of the brevity of life, we will be forced to use our short time here wisely and make the most of every opportunity.

Numbering my days, (daily taking into consideration how short my time is on this planet) looks something like this:

I have a 13-year-old son who starts high school in the Fall. As a result, when planning any family related activities, I deliberately include activities that will lead to us building amazing memories together as a family and I ensure I capture as many of those moments in pictures as well.

Once Caleb finishes high school and goes off to college, we probably will no longer enjoy the luxury of spending long summer days with him like we have done for the past several years. He probably will have his own summer plans.

Another example of how I implement numbering my days:

Every evening at dinner, my 2 oldest (13 and 10) are always very chatty and loud. Truth is I find it annoying because I just want to eat my food in peace with some small talk only if necessary.

Hard to do that with those 2 at the table. They give Lough-Out-Loud (LOL) a whole new meaning.

Well I realized that after they are both all grown up and gone from the house, these are some of the fond memories they will have of each other and I will have of them…..annoying the heck out of their parents at  dinner every evening as they share inside jokes and catch up on what happened at school that day.

Those two do get very loud. The talking and LOL carry on until it is time for them to go to bed at times. Now I just try to ignore them on most days. Emphasis on most days. It does get out of hands on some days and their dad or I have to intervene to keep things quiet.

They really do enjoy their time together in the evenings even if it’s to the chagrin of their mother. The loud noise does they make does not bother me as much anymore.

If we remind our selves frequently of how short our lives are, we will get on with business. We won’t waste precious limited time. We will do all that we need to do and do it quickly. We will use our time wisely and focus on what’s important.

2. Get your affairs in order.

Be it your finances, writing a will or whatever it is you need to do. Get your affairs in order for the sake of your loved ones. God forbid, should anything happen to you tomorrow, the last thing you want is the added burden of having your grieving loved ones dealing with the consequences of your failure to getting your affairs in order. Do what needs to be done today. Don’t wait another day

3. Live Full and Die Empty  

I want to be sure that I fulfilled the purpose that I was put on this planet for.

That looks something like this:

If you have been wanting to write that book, write it now. If it has been your desire to start that foundation, start it now. Don’t wait another day to start that business that you have wanted to start for years.

If there are things God has put in your heart to do –  so you can leave your mark on this planet, do them NOW.

As a Christian, I don’t ever want to think that yes my soul was saved (I’m headed straight to heaven after I die because of my trust in faith in Jesus) but my life on earth was a waste because I failed to live out my life’s purpose

“There can be saved souls and wasted lives” Steve Millazzo

If you are reading this, it means you are alive. If you are alive it means your assignment or life purpose on earth is not yet complete. Get on with it!

4. Gratitude

I’ve always been a big believer in gratitude, but after these last few weeks. I am even more so thankful and appreciative of the smallest things. I notice and appreciate a lot of things that I used to take for granted previously.

A quick example, It was very cold here in New York a few days back and as I walked back into the house from dropping the kids off at school, I could not help but pause in the entry way for a few seconds to give thanks for having a warm house to come back to.

Another example. I’m so thankful that my organs function well and each one does what it’s built for without missing a beat.

Somehow after the death of my friends and uncle, I found myself researching the anatomy of the heart and other major organs. It is really fascinating how the heart and lungs work. I even went as far as researching how the pancreas works.

It just gave me a deep appreciation for the human body. It also reconfirmed the fact that only a magnificent God could have uniquely created complex creatures called humans with such a complex anatomy.

Bottom line is I just don’t take a lot of things for granted like I used to.

I appreciate that I’m able to breathe on my own, I cannot ever take that for granted after seeing how the lungs function. That I’m alive and well because my heart is doing what it is suppose to do and it is doing it well. That I’m in stellar health. These are things I never gave two thoughts to before. But now I’ve had a paradigm shift. I’m so very grateful. I’m so very grateful for life!

5. Live as though you are on borrowed time  

This will not only give the added sense of urgency to projects that have been postponed for years, It also helps to cut out distractions tremendously.

A lot of trivial things that used matter to me don’t matter as much. Instead I’m more focused more what I consider and know to be important in the larger scheme of things. For example I treasure and nurture my relationships more.

My prayer, heart desire and ultimate major life lesson death taught me can be found in John 17:4. At the end of my time on this planet, I want to be able to say with confidence:

I glorified you on earth
By completing down to the last detail
What you assigned me to do. John 17:4

In conclusion, our time here is short. Life in itself is fickle. Life is fragile.

We all have an appointment with death, we just do not know the date and time. If you are still here today breathing and living, you should not take that for granted. We should all make the most of our very limited time here on this planet.

What lessons have death taught you?  Did losing a loved one change your perspective on life dramatically? Please share life lessons you gained from a death experience in the comments section below so we can all benefit from them. Thank you!

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