Last Day on Earth; My Final Thoughts
LEADERSHIP: "A leader is someone who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way..."
I write this for anyone and everyone. Although it is written in first person, I invite anyone who reads this to put themselves in the story, and to find out what really matters in your own life...
I awoke this morning in a daze. When my eyes finally focused, and my head began to clear, I could see... my feet. They were poking out of the blanket. But it was a hospital blanket, and I was in a hospital bed.
Ah, yes, I remembered. I had been visited by the doctor this morning. He had been pleasant enough, smiling dryly and asking me how I was feeling. He asked me if I needed anything, or if there was anyone I might like him to call - a relative or close friend. I simply nodded, and gave him the information, as he wrote it down.
Then he sat down next to me, gently touched my shoulder, and told me that I would not survive through the night.
At first I was shocked, then angry, then sullen, and finally, quiet and thoughtful. I thought about what I had done with my life. What had I accomplished? Was mine a life well lived? As I reflected on my life, a flood of thoughts - memories, hopes and dreams and regrets - filled my mind.
I thought of my father, whom I hadn't spoken to in years. What was it we had fought about so many years ago? Had I truly intended not to speak to him for the rest of my life? If I had known my life would be so abruptly ended, surely I'd have made the effort to reach out to him? To say, perhaps in my last breath, the only thing that truly matters, "I love you, dad."
I never meant for it to end like this. I was so stubborn! I put forth so much effort into making him pay for whatever it is I thought he did. Yet he was only trying to be a father, the only way he knew how. He is only human, but I expected perfection, and placed all blame on him. Instead of seeking first to understand, I was only thinking of myself.
Who cares what was said in anger? Why did we only focus on our differences? That's not what life should be about! But somehow, it did become our focus. And now my life is ending, and there is so much regret. So many things left unsaid. Can it really end like this?
A nurse walked in, set down a bottle of water, looked at some charts, and told me my children would be in shortly to visit.
I took a drink, but tasted nothing. My mouth was still dry. Now my thoughts drifted towards my children...
How will they remember me? Did I fully prepare them to live independently, or was I too overbearing? What quality of life have I provided for them? Will they live comfortably when I am gone? What kind of people will they become?
I slowly began to realize that I did not have the answers to any of these questions. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I hardly even knew my children. My own children! I couldn't think of any one thing that was of major importance to them. How did this happen? How did I become so disengaged in the lives of my own children? How did I forget to build a solid relationship with the only people who I am directly responsible to for guidance and upbringing?
I remembered. I was always working. I simply didn't have the time.
I was working hard to provide for them that "quality of life" I never had. But to do it, I took myself completely out of the picture, spending 8 to 10 and sometimes 12 hours at work. I, the parent, became someone my kids only knew on the weekends(if I wasn't called in) and holidays. I had myself convinced that I was doing it for them, but really they needed me to be there too. And I could've done with some more family time as well. How did I get stuck in this situation? I mean, I had no other choice but to work, right?
It's funny to think I dedicated so much of my life to working, all for the sake of their well-being, and yet now, in my final hours, all I want is to be able to spend more time with them. I don't wish I had spent more time at work! I regret not spending more time with my family! When did our priorities become so screwed up that we spent more time at work then we do with our children? If I could just have ONE more day with them...
I took another drink of water, then set it down on the table next to my keys.
Those keys. Those keys belonged to things that didn't even matter now. The cars. The house. My job.
Who cares about a fancy car when your life is over? I put so much value on that stupid car! I went into debt for that thing! And the house. The house was supposed to be an asset, but really it was a liability. I was putting thousands of dollars into it every month, just so I could sleep there. That's really where most of my time went in that house. Sleep.
All the material things in my life had absolutely NO value to me now. I couldn't take any of that stuff with me. And I didn't want to. All that really matters are the people in my life, the relationships I built and created and nurtured.
I wasn't mad at the kid who accidently broke the car window anymore. I forgot about the guy who almost ran me off the road the other day, and my co-workers who were always talking behind my back. WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES ANY OF THAT MAKE NOW? None of it matters...
Has my life been wasted seeking frivolous things? Was my time here spent collecting useless information, only to gossip and put down others? Did I live in constant fear of failure, only to deny myself the chance to dream? Am I leaving any evidence at all that I ever lived here on this earth?
Please! TELL ME MY LIFE WAS NOT LIVED IN VAIN!!
I was on the verge of tears when my children came walking in, followed by my spouse, then my mother and... my father! My father was here to see me!
And then I remembered the rest.
My life did not turn out anything like I was worried about. Although it did start out that way, I had met some people and made some changes that turned my life around. I learned that it was never too late to make positive changes in my life. I realized that in order to get different results in my life, I had to change my thinking. I started on a never ending quest to learn.
I read books (yes, books!) on everything from leadership to relationships to people skills. I was able to revitalize my marriage, and mend all my relationships at work as well as in my family. And I actually became someone who was well liked and respected in both.
I also read books on financial literacy as well as dream building and vision casting. I was able to turn my finances around and figure out what I wanted out of life and go after it.
And when I wasn't reading, I was listening to audio CD's on the same subjects, always filling my mind with good information, relevant to what was important to me and my future.
But it wasn't always easy.
I had to put trust in people. I had to find a coach and mentor, someone to guide me on the right path. I found someone who had the results in life that I wanted, and I learned from them. It was the only way I could make it happen. Nothing that I knew was getting me where I wanted to be, and it became obvious to me I needed new information. So I began to change my associations...
I stopped hanging around my negative friends, who only drank and talked bad about everyone and everything. I avoided anyone who tried to crush my dreams, and who told me I couldn't make it. I stopped reading or listening to anything about gossip or celebrities (how was that helping me achieve any of MY goals?). And, most importantly, I learned to stop watching the TV. If it wasn't educational, it wasn't on. Ofcourse, there were exceptions, but for the most part, I was getting the right input in my life.
Did you know LEADERSHIP is the highest paid profession? It is. Look at any company, who makes the most money? The person at the top, the leader. The better the leader, the more influence. The more influence, the more longevity. Long term vision. Long term goals. Long term results.
I was able to get my time back. I grew myself personally to the point that I could teach others to do the same, until I was no longer needed. I invested a few years in developing myself as a leader, and then I got my life back, free to do whatever my heart desired. And I had earned it.
I devoted my life to serving others. All my energy was put into adding value to other people' s lives, and it came back to me tenfold. In this way I was able to make a positive impact in my family, in my neighborhood, my city, and hopefully the world. Doing good can have that kind of a ripple effect.
All I wanted was to make a difference in the lives of others. I feel i've accomplished this. But more importantly, I taught my children to do the same. So I know when I leave this earth tonight, I will not be leaving behind any regrets. I will be leaving behind a legacy.
Rest In Peace
My life was indeed a life well lived. I had discovered what meant the most to me, what was truly important - my core values - and made it my personal mission statement. Whenever I needed to make important decisions in my life, I checked to see how it measured up against my core values. If they weren't in alignment, then the choice was obvious.
I learned to dream, to have a vision, and to set goals and work towards them. I never stopped learning.
And so I leave this earth tonight, content. And I hope that in sharing my story, I might make an impact someway, somehow, in your life.