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If You Only Had One Year Left To Live...

Updated on November 20, 2016
Hanavee profile image

Brian Gray obtained his degree in Language from Lee University, and has been a published author and professional writer since 1985.

The River Of Life

Our journey on Earth is like a meandering river.
Our journey on Earth is like a meandering river.

Time Is Valuable & Irreplaceable

Imagine if someone were told that they could select any store at their local shopping mall, that they would be given one hour to go through that store, and that they could keep everything that they touched during that one hour. They would be given precisely one hour, no extensions, but everything they touched during that one-hour time limit was theirs for the keeping. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? I can imagine that there are some people who would run to their favorite jewelry store and make a huge pile of exquisite baubles, beautiful pieces that had always fascinated them. Others might run to their favorite clothing store and pick out all the stylish clothes that they had ever wanted, but couldn’t afford to buy. The list of stores and the different items people would select would most certainly vary from person to person, because we all do have our personal wants and needs, but the overall idea would be the same - a person given a limited amount of time to make the most of a great opportunity...and that is just like life. Only difference is, we really never know the exact time limit on our own lives.

Destined To Live A Long Life

My mother as a child.  Because her mother died at 47, my mother thought she would never see 50.  She lived to be 90.
My mother as a child. Because her mother died at 47, my mother thought she would never see 50. She lived to be 90.

Living Life Like You Are Going To Live Forever?

Like that journey into that store with that one-hour time limit, if you knew that you had one year left to live, what would you do? What would change? Imagine waking up one day, and you discover a pain that wasn’t there before. You visit the doctor only to find that you have an incurable illness that will take your life within one year. Your days are now defined by this seemingly unfair constraint. What you thought was some distant day in the far away future, a day that you conveniently ignored whenever it tried to get your attention, now looms before you like a huge, dark cloud. “It only happens to other people,” was the subliminal message that always ran through your mind when you read about this person, or that person, who had suddenly succumbed to some dread disease. “Wow!”, you said to yourself when reading of their passing, “they were so young.” And then you simply went on living your life the way the vast majority of people live their daily lives... as if they are going to live forever.

Finding Love

My mother would discover someone who loved her till the end, my father.
My mother would discover someone who loved her till the end, my father.

What If You Knew When?

But, if you knew without any uncertainty that you were going to breathe your last breath on a day that was exactly 365 days from today, what would you do? Yes, there are those who would suddenly say, “Well, that’s not fair! Why me?! Everybody else gets to live longer than I do. It’s not fair!” You might wallow in depressing thoughts, lots of “woe is me” tantrums, yet none of this would change the timetable. In one year, the life that you have known in this plane of existence would come to an end. Finished. Every future plan that you had entertained? Unattainable. What, then, would be the purpose in continuing to live? You might even bitterly and foolishly consider suicide. After all, if you only have one more year to live, then why live at all, right? Of course, that would just be robbing yourself of the last minutes in the store you selected.

Learning To Love

My mother and her first two daughters, Connie and Sandra.  My mother loved all of her children.
My mother and her first two daughters, Connie and Sandra. My mother loved all of her children.

The Two Lists

After you have had time to process the fact of your “event” to come, no doubt there would be thoughts about all the time in your past, the good and the bad, of course, but most of all, there would be thoughts about the “What ifs?” When you had finished all of this sorting through the “should haves” and the “would haves,” there might finally come a moment of thought that awakens another question - “What now?” You would finally be made acutely aware of the finality of this existence, and a new list would emerge. On that list would be two columns, “Important” and “Unimportant.”

Unexpected Death

My mother would have a family, but the child she was holding in this photo, her baby son, Phillip, would die unexpectedly at the age of 30.
My mother would have a family, but the child she was holding in this photo, her baby son, Phillip, would die unexpectedly at the age of 30.

Love - The Most Valuable Experience

Think long about those two columns. Grudges? Animosities? Hatreds? What about all the time spent in front of the television? Video games? Getting drunk? Getting stoned? What about all the things that have rendered you “checked out” while life moves inevitably toward that final moment in the store you were wanting more of? In one of my favorite movies, “Ghost,” the character played by Patrick Swayze turns back to speak to his wife, just as his spirit is about to enter the world beyond this one, and he says something that I find completely compatible with the best Theology. With an amazed and rapturous smile, as if he just discovered the meaning of life, he says, “Love! It’s the one thing you take with you!”

Surrounded By Love

My mother (in the red sweater) would be surrounded by ones who loved her.
My mother (in the red sweater) would be surrounded by ones who loved her.

The Journey Is For Joy

This life is not the destination. It is the journey. The destination will come just as surely as the end of a train ride will bring us to the station marked on our ticket. And when we rise to get off that train at our final destination on Earth, even then, another journey will begin. Nevertheless, for now, we are on a fantastic journey through life, a journey filled with wonder and awe, laughter and joy, beauty and love, and, yes, even sorrow and tears. Perhaps we should examine why some of our priorities have imposed limitations on our joys. Even more perhaps, we should examine how we can make the best of the time that we have in this life. And maybe we should see this life as the example I posed early on, a gift from someone who said that we can choose the store of our heart’s desire and enjoy it for one full hour collecting everything we wanted.

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    • Hanavee profile image
      Author

      Brian Gray 9 months ago from Pennsylvania

      Jodah,

      Thank you for reading my latest article, and I am so glad that you found its meaning. I sincerely hope that people who read this will take the time to live fuller and more complete lives rather than missing out, because they kept putting things off.

      Brian

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 9 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Thank you for sharing this profound message, Brian. I hadn't really considered this question until a year ago, but now my wife and I take our time left (however long that is) seriously. We have had close friends and family members pass away (three) within a month of finding out they had an illness. This was a shock and made us decide to try and live fuller lives with the time we have and do things now instead of putting them off.

    • Hanavee profile image
      Author

      Brian Gray 10 months ago from Pennsylvania

      always exploring,

      You are quite right, there really is never time for hate or hurtfulness. it robs us of valuable time and the joy of love. Regarding any fears that rob you of living life to the fullest, conquer them in steps...one step at a time, and you will be happier for having done so.

      Thanks for reading, and I am so glad that you found it worthwhile.

      Brian

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 10 months ago from Southern Illinois

      This was an eye opening account of living life to the fullest. Life is precious, there should never be time for hate or hurtfulness. I had a neighbor who ran a gas station. He lived for the day when he could retire. When that day arrived, he sat down in a chair and watched the world go by, hardly ever moving about. He died in six months, I'm sure it was from inactivity. This piece made me think of my fear of driving on interstates and unfamiliar places, I miss out on so much, and I realize it but unable to conquer my fear. I've thought about counselling, but not sure. Anyway, this is a great hub and mush food for thought. You had a sweet family....

    • Hanavee profile image
      Author

      Brian Gray 10 months ago from Pennsylvania

      Damian,

      The older we get, the more we become aware of our end. Sadly, not everyone gets to live a long life, and many do not live the life they are granted with fullness and completeness, which is why I tell people to make the most of each and every day. People who waste valuable time with petty grievances miss out on love, and people who spend all of their time distracted with diversions that keep them from fulfilling their dreams soon find that there will not be enough time left. My younger brother was felled with a heart attack at the age of thirty, and that awakened in me the feeling that we cannot afford to simply waste time. It is over before we know it, so we should be about finding ways to enjoy this gift that God gave us called life. I remember a man who worked for a company factory each and every day, and he had dreams of what he was finally going to do when he retired. He had it all planned out, and had waited patiently to start... as soon as he retired...and on the exact day that he retired, he got no further than one foot past the factory gates, had a heart attack and died. The lesson to all of us is, simply, start living all of your dreams, hopes and aspirations now, and put aside anything that is standing in your way.

      Thanks, as always, for reading and commenting,

      Brian

    • profile image

      Damian Fedorko 10 months ago

      As I get older I realize all my ducks need to be in order when I pass on to wherever the Lord takes me. Yes, I will pass away some day and I won't know the time or the day but what I need to do is be ready, lead a good life. Be ready with the Lord so I can make it into the "Gates". In the beginning, you spoke of material things. You can't take it with you but if I had that hour I would give whatever I could to the people in need and hope they have a better day. I truly enjoyed this article and this is one that people should read. Thank you.