Happy Advice: Remember to Die

“Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. … The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.” Seneca

As the last year seems to be a defining year for everyone alive- thinking and processing is at a premium. I’ve decided to start blogging in order to process my thoughts on a lot of the news and experiences of our day. As a verbal processor, writing allows me to figure out my beliefs with out constantly putting my foot in my mouth. So here goes…

Last August, I went to the doctor for my annual checkup. I do this every year so I didn’t think much of it. I am trying out a new doctor, so he suggested I get a variety of tests so that we can determine a baseline for my health. Normally I wouldn’t have thought much of this, but the way he continued to ask me about my heart and health made me decide to take action quickly. I left his office and went two floors down to imaging. They were able to fit me in and I was given a calcium imaging test from my heart. I’ve always known my family history of heart disease, yet I’ve never thought how it will play out for me personally.

The test came back. I have heart disease.

But wait, there is more. They also discovered some other “nodules” in my lungs, liver, and spleen.

After another imaging, they were able to determine that I have benign cysts on my spleen and liver and the “nodules” in my lungs are “most likely” not cancer. We will keep watch on them.

All of this to say, this news has reminded me to “remember to die” (Memento Mori), which is a stoic idea that tells us to live each day fully. It is similar to the sport’s cliche, “leave it all on the court”. Most importantly, though, is the biblical idea to live fully today with the knowledge that some day I’ll stand before a divine judge.

Here are 3 insights from this experience that I’ve wrestled with over the past year.

  1. The present is more important than the future. I tend to be future focused. This means I forget to live in the moment. This means I exercise for the person I want to be and not enjoying the process. I read less, converse less, and slow down less than I did in the past. This is going to have a cost. My kids will pay the cost. My wife will pay the cost. It is possible to be prepared to the future but live in the moment.
  2. Health is at a premium. I have spent the last few years getting in better shape and losing weight. This decision has led to a happier life and feeling better. My only regret is that I didn’t start sooner. Youth is a liar. Just because you can run and jump and play sports does not make you healthy. Health is what you eat, how you think, and what you do. Youth is a liar. It tricks you into thinking you are doing the right things simply because you haven’t broken down yet.
  3. You can play it safe and still lose everything. I’ve never been a smoker or drinker, yet I’m also going to die someday. Rather than using this knowledge as an excuse to party, I find it encourages me to take action and live a better life. I am glad I decided to plant a church, even though it was a risk. I love my church and every person that has helped build it. But even if it had not been successful, I would be no worse for the wear. I would have had to find another job, but I would have been ok. I need to be more intentional about taking important actions.