|Vyšehrad cemetery, Prague.|
The first couple of months of the year usually create within us a resolve to change, to do things we've been putting off for a while. Sometime later that same resolve fades away into nothingness, like the remnants of a weekend dust storm on a Sunday morning in Kuwait.
Last October, I was at the Palliative Care Center—where terminally-ill patients reside—to visit a school friend whose father was dying with cancer. I recalled seeing him, healthy and jovial, from my schooldays over a decade ago. Yet there he lay, on the verge of death, unable to speak from the exhaustion brought about by the disease that was slowly eating away at his body and mind, to the extent that he could no longer even recognize friends that came to visit. He passed away a few days later.
That visit made something in my mind click. My perspective on life—and death—changed overnight. A year or two ago, my bucket list was full of things like skydiving, cliff diving and the like. Now in retrospect, I think any regrets I have on my death bed would more likely be not cherishing the ones I love or doing more good when I had the opportunity to do so.
We all make similar lists to satisfy our vanity with the vague uncertainty that death will one day befall us, but even then we don't really believe it will happen for a long while. We think ourselves to be immortal. But death is imminent. It can strike anyone, anytime. While I was at the center, a patient in the opposite room was no more. A 16-year-old boy with leukemia had been there for a year. An 18-year-old boy had suffered the same fate and passed away the week before. Death didn't care about how young its victims were. Death spared no one.
The audacity of man to have an ego is so laughable when you realize how fragile human life is. How is it that we go through life so blindly, without ever really thinking of how close the Angel of Death hovers by?
Some of us receive deadly reminders of the inevitable instead, perhaps through a life-threatening illness or a very near accident. The grim reaper chooses his own means to rub shoulders with us on occasion, as if to mock our complacency. The same newsflash registers with all of us at some point—that life is fleeting and can end at any instant. That we’re just subsisting, too wrapped up in the tedium of our routines to truly live, and live rightly at that. Too often, we ignore the people we care most about and forget those who have played some role in shaping our lives, failing to realize it until it’s too late.
And it finally hit me. All that really matters at the end of your life is the goodness you leave behind. As my friend aptly put it, we're just here in transit. So this year, and for the years to come, live rightly. Make time for your loved ones and hug them a little tighter, a little more often. Be the bigger person and apologize for your mistakes; let go of your ego. Volunteer or teach someone a skill. This can sometimes be challenging, but do good unto others regardless of whether they've been good to you.