“If I Get To Five” – The Secret To Living Forever
“If I Get To Five” – The Secret To Living Forever
May 30, 2013
Winston Wayne Wilson
If you want to live forever, give forever - W. Wayne Wilson
I used to live in the future. Way, way, way in the future. I wanted to live to be 200 years old if my body and modern science allowed me to. In many ways, I used to think that my best life lies ahead of me and I salivated at the mere thought of the ambrosia-filled gourd of dreams fulfilled beyond my wildest expectations that was waiting there for me in the future. In a way, this mentality was a good thing – most certainly it gave me something to wake up and aspire to. Besides, it helped me to get through perfunctory days laced with purposeless meetings that would go on and on just because they can. Another benefit of my mental existence in the future was that sometimes thinking ahead did in fact help me to better anticipate and navigate adversity that were still to come. Good, too, was the fact that when my dreams crashed and burned I would emerge from the wreckage, brush myself off and smile knowing that the accident merely affirmed what I already knew – it wasn’t time yet because my best life lies ahead of me.
The downside to this seemingly innocuous, deceitfully optimistic cerebral posturing, is that I became prone to absent-mindedness – completely oblivious to, and unappreciative of, things occurring in the present, even when they were occurring an inch away from my futuristic eyes. All this changed after I read the book “If I Get to Five” authored by the well-known neurosurgeon Dr. Fred Epstein, a.k.a, “the miracle man”. Dr. Fred Epstein got this moniker because he pioneered life-saving surgical procedures for inoperable tumors in children. The book chronicles the lives of numerous brave children who were afflicted with inoperable tumors. Some made it. Some did not.
What all of them embodied, however, was courage beyond their years. Oftentimes, they were the ones who counseled and consoled their parents and even the doctors who just could not accept the fact that these young, innocent children were dealt such as harsh blow so early in their lives. The title of the book came from the words of Naomi, a four-year old, spritely brave soul who Dr. Epstein had to perform one of his riskiest surgeries on. She was literally on the verge of death and bleeding profusely. Her tumor was so bad that even Dr. Epstein did not think there were any good options for treating her. He performed the surgery on Naomi in two parts. The first was just to relieve the bleeding and to buy time. Naomi went into a coma. After Naomi came out of the coma, she was still spritely, despite her severe condition. Her words were simply: “If I get to five, I am going to learn to ride a two-wheeler”. By Dr. Epstein’s own admission, he did not think her prognosis was that good. Dr. Epstein performed the second surgery successfully. As Naomi recovered, she would say if she got to five she would do something – like beating her brother at tic-tac-toe or learning to tie her shoes with a double knot.
My life changed forever after reading Naomi’s story of simply trying to get to five. Not ten, not fifty, not one hundred, and most certainly not two hundred. Just five. Five was just months away, but that was all Naomi felt she needed to do what she believed were the most impactful things in her life. Talk about a sudden case of perspective-adjustment. There I was craving, like most of us do every day, for more time. And even though we crave for endless time, we still squander it profusely.
So reading the book made me realize that I was unable to appreciate everything I had going on for me and I was fantasizing about the great life to come when children like Naomi were just trying to get to the next day. In the end, Naomi’s surgeries were successful and, at the time of the publication of the book in 2004, she was already in her twenties. Although, she still had some challenges and could not live a completely normal life, Naomi only wanted to get to five and that she did.
Beyond the sheer courage of these children, my biggest take away from the book was upgrading my understanding about death and immortality. Death will never be a pretty event neither will it ever be gladly welcomed. However, I now know that death only has the power to take the least important part of us – our physical bodies. In seeing how the families of the children who died went on the honor their causes and got more involved in their communities, I realized that death cannot rob us and our families of beautiful memories.
After reading the book, I began to challenge myself about why I feared death and why I wanted to live to 200 years old. What is the purpose? I realized then that, like most people, I simply wanted to live forever so that I could enjoy more and take more from life. Few of us want to live forever so that we can have infinite time to give more to others. Yes, most of us are primarily takers from the grab bag that is life. We want to live long and be healthy so that we can hog more stuff and take more enjoyment from life. There is nothing wrong with that; however, longevity of our physical bodies for the extended fulfillment from material things is most likely not our highest purpose in life.
So, then, what is the real secret to living forever? As the quote above says, “If you want to live forever, give forever.” Give laughter, give love, give light, give wisdom, give perspective, give empowering words of advice, give positive energy, give time and give of your resources. In so doing, long after your passing all your gifts will be immortal reminders in life's history book of your generous spirit. If you give nothing to the community of life then you will quickly be forgotten and all the pages of life's history book will be blank. Yes, all of them.
So there you have it. Life is about giving forever in order to live forever. It is having people say of your existence on this planet “I am glad you came here” - however long you stayed for. You can have more impact in five years than you do in fifty years if those five years are packed with giving. The best, most memorable and eternal gifts do not involve money. In fact, I cannot remember everyone who has ever given or loaned me money; however, I still remember clearly all the friends who made me laugh or gave me the right books to read at the right time in my life, or friends who listened when I needed a second pair of ears. If you still think you don’t have anything to give, then give truth because the fountain of truth is more eternal than the fountain of youth.
As I said in my first article, we are all here to learn and teach. Teaching others is a gift to them. If you learn nothing then you have nothing to teach and nothing to give. I hope as you read these daily lessons that you are also taking the time to pick out one or two things that resonate and share them with others. When you do, you will be giving a gift of time and wisdom. You will be adding to your immortality and writing something memorable in life's history book. Have a nice day and don’t forget to give something.