There's a Latin phrase called memento mori. Loosely translated, it mean don't forget that you're going to die. Charming I know, but absolutely true. It is completely unavoidable. You can't hide from it. Your choices are to let it depress you into thinking that what you do today doesn't matter or to motivate you to make what you are doing today count.
Steve Jobs said: "I have looked int the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something." Steven Covey had a similar take of the subject by imagining your 80th birthday party.
How is living this kind of life possible? I'm reminded of two examples from my own life.
My good friend Rebehak passed away last year unexpectedly. As the mother of a special needs child, it was her dream to build an accessible playground for the community where all could play without limitations. Three years of blood, sweat, and tears leading a small band of volunteers and sponsors turned that dream into a reality.
Earlier this month, my Grandfather also breathed his last. He was a Corpsman in the Navy. After retiring, he took a job as a bank teller at a local Savings & Loan. By the time he retired a second time, he was the bank's president.
These two individuals show what happens when you don't leave your legacy up to chance but do what you can, while you can do it.
How do I live a life I can be happy about at it's end? Here's some suggestions to get you started:
1) What are three highlights from your obituary you would most like to be true?
Imagine you get to read the obituary that's been written after you die. What would you like to have mentioned most?
Did you know that Thomas Jefferson wrote his own epitaph? It reads "Here was buried Thomas Jefferson
Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom,
& Father of the University of Virginia." Choose no more than three things.
2) What criteria would be necessary to make that a true statement?
For each of your accomplishments, consider how you might achieve them. Put yourself in the mind of a detective. What evidence would you need to prove that you actually did those things? What would be enough to "convict" you? Come up with criteria for all your future milestones.
3) What can you do today to start the journey that will make your obituary true?
Now you know what you need to accomplish before you go. Don't get overwhelmed! What is the smallest thing you could do today to make progress towards each of those future highlights? Do those things today and keep building of them as time goes on.
None of us wants to think about our own mortality, but remembering how precious our little time if earth is can create focus to break us from our status quo and do the things we are called to do. What will you do to leave a positive impact behind you?