I assume you’ve heard the song “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw. If you haven’t, click here to watch the video, then come on back…
Did you like the song? So did I! Well, the first 240 or so times I heard it. It is an awfully catchy song, and the lyrics are oh so motivating. But they’re also kind of selfish, don’t you think? Like life is all about you and gratifying your bucket list? And who else besides multi-millionaires like Mr. McGraw can afford to live the way he describes in that song? I mean, skydiving, climbing in the Rockies, and bull riding? Who’s got the time or the budget for all that fun? I can barely afford my monthly Netflix subscription!
I’m going somewhere with this, I promise.
I was on a training call the other day with the woman I’m replacing. She started telling me about one of the IT personnel I support…
“Yeah, it’s very sad. I guess she has some sort of kidney disease. She gets dialysis three times a week. If she doesn’t get a new kidney in the next year or so, she’ll probably die. She knows she’s on borrowed time, so I try to be extra-nice to her and treat her with kid gloves…”
…which brought the question to mind, Why don’t you always treat her that way? And also, Why aren’t I treating people that way?
What if we changed the lyrics of the song to “Live Like They Were Dying”….’They’ being everyone you interact with on a daily basis. Because let’s face it, all of us are living on borrowed time. And when you consider how nicely you treat really sick people, doesn’t it strike you as odd that we reserve that ‘special’ treatment for folks about to leave this world? What the heck are we waiting for?
So without further ado, and with no disrespect intended to Tim, here’s my own list of ways you can “Live Like They Were Dying”:
- Be Present With Them: More than anything else, people in the final stages of life feel afraid and alone. Of course, the only difference between them and the rest of us is that they have nothing left to distract them from their fate. They can’t deny it any longer. Here’s what I’m saying: Just about every person you know is, to some extent, feeling afraid and alone. So be with them. Really. Like Will Smith says in Hitch, “When you’re in the room, be in the room.“
- Their Bucket List: Whether or not they call it this, everyone’s got one. Everyone has a list of things they want to do in/with/during their lifetimes. Too bad most of us wait until we’re retired or terminal before we get serious about it. So: Ask your friends, family, and associates what’s on their bucket list. Then do what you can to help those things happen, even if it just means forwarding an interesting article you read online.
- Money Concerns: Another major concern of the dying is whether there will be enough money for their funeral and their family after they are gone. And just like #1, everyone suffers from this worry. Live like those around you are dying by being generous. Buy a cup of coffee for someone. Pick up someone’s grocery tab (assuming you’re in the 20-items-or-less line). Buy someone’s gas. Take care of people the way you would if you knew they wouldn’t be around for another Christmas.
- Get Past The Body: Did you tell Grandma how awful she looked in the hospital gown she had to wear? Well, maybe you did to break the tension, but seriously…When you know someone is dying, you really don’t care anymore about their physical appearance. So why care now? Stop evaluating people based on their appearance; simply appreciate them for being in your life.
- Get Past The Mind: Alzheimer’s Disease is the worst. I’m not being flippant. It really is just about the worst thing that can happen to a person and their family. The loving, wonderful parent and grandparent you used to know disappears, and is sometimes replaced by a monster. Inside their mind, somewhere, you know that same person exists, but you don’t get to see them anymore. In exceedingly trying times like this, you love the person as best you can, and you reminisce about the “good old days”. Why not give everyone in your life this kind of treatment? When someone wrongs you, love them anyway for the wonderful person you’re sure is lurking in there somewhere. Be forgiving of people’s erratic and out-of-character behavior. The mind is a tricky, temporary thing. Don’t take yours, or anyone else’s, too seriously.