With my full-time job in healthcare, I see patients every day who have had terrible things happen to them. Auto accidents that left them with multiple injuries and unable to walk for months; work accidents that shatter legs and destroy any hope of walking “normally” again; strokes; heart attacks; amputations; cancer; Parkinson’s that robs muscles of control and the brain of cogent thoughts. And you know what? Not one of them planned for it to happen. Not one scheduled their accident or episode or onset of disease.
Tragedy isn’t something you plan for. Heartache isn’t scheduled on anyone’s calendar.
This gets me thinking from time to time and I have to step back and take inventory of my life, of what’s important, of what I fight and live for. Things can change in an instant. One misjudgment, one lapse in attention, one rogue cell, one determined virus. And everything changes.
It happens, really. I see it every day and deal with the consequences, both physically and emotionally.
As is common for most of us, talk of illness, injury, and death spurs thoughts of life. We live once. It’s a gift given us and there’s no exchanging it or returning it. Once used it’s in the realm of history, written into the pages of eternity. The focus of life is not only the tape at the finish line, it’s how we run the race. And I want to run with no regrets.
This has been on my mind a lot lately, no regrets. I work with people every day who are at the end of life and some voice very openly the regrets they’ll carry to the grave. I can see the sorrow in the lines of their face, the cloud in their eyes. They wish their life would have turned out differently. They wish they would have loved more and hated less, listened to that advice they ignored, been more honest, paid more attention to their children.
A few years ago I worked with a woman who lived alone in a trailer with her elderly dog. She had no family, no friends, and, as far as she was concerned, no reason for living. After telling me all the mistakes she’d made in life she said, “I think about just ending it. All I have in the world is this trailer and my stupid dog.” I left her with tears in my eyes and a heavy lump in my throat.
There’s a Matthew West song I love called “The Motions.” Here’s a few lines from the chorus:
I don’t want to spend my whole life asking
What if I had given everything
Instead of going through the motions?
So where do we go from here, from the determination and declaration that we will make the most of what we have now and not end our life asking "What if . . .?" I think it means we have to make some changes right now.
With that in mind, here are some thoughts, in no particular order:
* Be in good standing with everyone you come in contact with; live in peace with everyone.
* Be the parent your kids need.
* Be the spouse your husband/wife deserves.
* Work hard and do your best at whatever your hands find to do.
* Never stop learning.
* Make a difference in the lives of the people you know.
* Never be ashamed of your faith and take every opportunity to talk about it, to defend it, and to encourage someone else with it.
* Be quick to apologize and quicker to forgive.
* Give people the benefit of the doubt and assume the best.
* Take risks and spend some time on limbs.
* Recognize opportunities and seize them.
* Love others as you have been loved.
* Pursue humility and live by the rule of honesty.
When I was on the track & field team in high school I sometimes ran the 400 meter dash. At the end of the race I was spent, exhausted, and ready to vomit. I had run my best and left everything on the track. Wouldn't it be great to do the same with this race of life, leave it all on the track?