Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying

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The restaurant was loud Thursday night.

J and I were crowded in the corner, our chairs close to one another. As we spoke in hushed tones, our spouses and daughters buzzed with conversation or stared into lit phone screens.

A signature here. A signature there.

In some ways, I’m glad that our meeting place was so public. I found it difficult to ruminate over the documents while forks clanked against plates and peals of laughter rose from across the dining room. If we had been alone, I would have cried.

When the last signature was drying on the fancy paper, J looked at me and said, “Now you can get busy living.”

It was done.

When you have to prepare for your death, it is a sobering reminder that none of us will get out of this world alive. Once the blue ink dries and the documents are in your hand, you realize that some of the burden accompanying death, is lifted. No one  has to wonder what your wishes are. No one has to wonder if they are making the right decisions. You have made all of those arrangements for them.

One weekend while visiting my Mom many, many years ago, she suggested we spend the afternoon at the condo on Lake Norman. Once we settled in, she and I gathered our fruity cocktails and sat on the covered patio and watched as the boats and jet skis passed through the cove. I’m not sure her exact thoughts, but I imagine that she knew this would be a tough conversation for us both.

She then pulled out an envelope and slid it across the table to me.

When I opened the flap and recognized the documents inside, I started to balk. But before I was given the chance to protest too much, she stopped me.

“Kelli, we both know how this ends for me. I want to leave this Earth knowing that I gave you and Mac one less thing to worry about. It’s important. Let me have my say.”

For the next couple of hours, she explained her Last Will & Testament, her Living Will, and Power of Attorney for Health and Finances.

She educated me on Mac’s responsibilities as well as my own. In her careful planning, she gave me a piece of paper that outlined her final wishes for a memorial service and what to do with her personal effects after she was gone. She even picked out the outfit she was to be buried in. That was my mom. Meticulous down to the last detail. If she couldn’t control how her life was to end, she was determined to control the rest.

I cried a lot after she finished. In fact, I’m sure Mom cried too. We never opened that envelope again.

From that day forward, she got busy living the rest of her life and stopped worrying about the dying part.

In hindsight, it was one of the greatest gifts she gave me. I knew that those documents contained her request for honoring the life she lived here and how we would celebrate her arrival in Paradise.

So Thursday, after the waitress cleared the dishes, I huddled up at the end of the table with J while everyone else visited with one another or their technology. Between us, J spoke candidly about each document and then showed me where to sign. He signed. Then our witness signed.

Finally, the documents were placed in an over-sized envelope.

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At work this week, several of us talked about the vapor of life. One woman spoke of a 50 year old father who died very suddenly after a seemingly common illness. Another colleague watched in horror as her child fell in what could have been a terrible accident. Yet another received a phone call that her son had been involved in a traffic accident.

Our lives are but a vapor.

I am reminded of this when I observe fog that blankets a river one minute and then lifts and is burnt away by the sun.

Despite life’s brevity, it is a wondrous adventure.

There is a popular saying that goes something like this, ‘Don’t get so busy making a living, that you forget to make a life.’ And I think many people enter into adulthood and do just that.

They live to work, buy stuff, acquire status and positions at work or in prominent social circles and then wait for retirement to really live this one life. That’s an ok way to approach things, I suppose. Yet, I often wonder about how people feel if they suddenly come to know the end of their life and realize that they missed living it.

And perhaps the real issue is all in how we interpret what it means to really live life to the fullest.

What I find adventurous in this world is certainly not what others are interested in doing. I respect that.

The glorious aspect about life is that we get to choose how we spend our time here.

So, I would encourage you to spend some time and linger over a couple of important things: how you want your love one to handle your death and how you might spend your time living your best possible life.

The first will ease the burden for others after you are gone. The second will show your loved ones how much fun you had at living life in the hopes that they will follow your example.

It is easy to get trapped in our “to-do lists” or always feeling that you have to say ‘yes’ to this person or that person. It is also easy to say, “Let’s do that next year when the time is right.”

Instead, look for opportunities, big and small, to live life  with a bit of reckless abandon for the possibilities that exist out there. Pay attention to the colors in the sky at morning. Don’t be in such a hurry to end a conversation over dinner. Notice how the shadows play with the landscape as the sun sets. Laugh until you cry. Book that trip to that destination you always wanted to see. Reach out to the hurting in this world even it is a bit uncomfortable. Listen to the ideas and viewpoints of someone who is different than you. Forgive. Taste food from another part of the world. Be willing to see Divinity in every person you meet. Eat that piece of cake.

Do whatever it takes to get busy living this one, wild and wonderful life.

If you aren’t bust living, then you are busy dying.

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