My wife’s 104-year old granddad passed away in his sleep over the weekend. Up until the last few months, he was still driving and still working out every day. He lived as full of a life as just about anybody in the history of mankind. We should all be so lucky.
At 104 years old, we were all aware that his time was drawing to a close. As he fell ill recently, we were prepared to get a call any day that he was no longer with us. But knowing that, and even trying to mentally prepare for that call does not change the fact that death is so…final.
Life moves along. We do things. We hang out with people or we don’t. We call people or we don’t. And then, over time, some people just cease to exist in our lives. We can’t hang out with them anymore. We can’t call them anymore. They’re just…gone.
My dad passed away three-and-a-half years ago after a six-month ass-kicking by lung cancer. He was in my life for 37 years, and then one day, he was gone. There is this void in the part of my life that he occupied. That void will never be filled. It is all so…final.
Obviously, I don’t like death. But the older I get, the more I realize the harsh reality that death is simply a part of life. In fact, do you know the leading cause of death? Birth!
As a dad and a husband, I am afraid of dying. I am afraid and saddened by the thought of my kids and my wife living without me. I mean, I don’t sit up at night thinking about dying, but I’d much rather stay alive for a very long time than die and leave my family realizing that death is so…final.
Here is the question I’ve been asking myself lately though, “Am I living a life that justifies being afraid to die?” In other words, why am I afraid to die? My answer to that question is quick and simple: I don’t want my kids and my wife to be without me. Okay, good answer, Chris. But are my actions lining up that statement? Why don’t I want my kids and my wife to be without me? What would they be missing out on?
I had the realization yesterday that on the average week day, I have the opportunity to spend no more than five waking hours per day with my wife and kids. By the time the kids are up in the morning, we have about an hour together before I take them to school. During that hour, they have to eat and get dressed, and so do I. My wife has to leave for work 30 minutes into that hour. I have to pack their lunches and do some prep for my work day. So that hour isn’t really an hour.
We’re all together again as a family by 5pm. This gives us 3-4 hours together before bed. We try to play outside or play a game together. Then it’s time to make dinner, clean up after dinner, take baths, and get ready for bed. By 8:30, we’re all lying in bed together reading books, and by 9pm, everyone is asleep. So that 3-4 hours isn’t really 3-4 hours.
When I add it all up, less than 20% of my average weekday is spent awake and together with my family. So again, why don’t I want my wife and kids to be without me? They still have 80% of their average day that rarely includes me. They’d be fine!
Here’s the deal. I can choose to let this information get me depressed, or I can choose to let this information motivate me. I choose motivation. If we are really only spending about 20% of our average weekdays together, then I have to milk that 20% for all it’s worth! No sitting around watching television. No telling the kids, “Just a minute while I finish this email,” when they ask me to come outside with them. I need to make sure that I am constantly living a life that justifies being afraid to die. My actions need to line up with the statement, “I don’t want my kids and my wife to be without me.”
It usually takes death, or loss, or catastrophe to drive this point home and snap us back into the proper perspective. So thank you to my wife’s 104-year old granddad, who inspired us all to milk everything out of each and every one of our waking hours.