A few days to live

A remarkable discovery about life from the deathbed

Tijn Touber | May 2006 issue
I knew a man who discovered, as he lay dying, that he had only been on Earth for a few days. He was nearly 70 years old when he died, but according to him, he had only really been alive a few days.
Those several days on Earth were wonderful, to be sure. He saw them in his mind’s eye. He saw one evening when he was with his best friend at the pub and was sure he would change the world. He saw the day he met his future wife and knew for certain that love existed. He saw himself in the middle of his family when felt he was a part of something greater than himself. He saw himself playing soccer with his son and thought, “Isn’t happiness simple.”
If only life were always so simple. More to the point: If only he had always been so simple. If he had always been so fully present with everything he experienced—without holding back, without fear, with out premeditation, without appointment books, without worry, without masks. Simply as it was.
Now at the end of his life he looked back and thought, “I wish I could tell everyone that it’s really only about the days you are truly there.”
He wanted to scream: “Hey people, live! Don’t hold anything back; give it all you’ve got. Give yourself. And receive—receive life fully!” But he barely had the strength to breathe, let alone scream.
And no one had time to listen to him—an old man on his deathbed. He understood that he wasn’t the only one who had barely lived. Most people were in as deep a sleep as he had been. Given his few days on Earth, he had in fact lived a relatively long life compared to many of them.
It was a humiliating discovery, there on that deathbed, but also a beautiful one. For those days on Earth—those few days he had completely been there—were so unforgettably beautiful, he would carry them with him forever.
 

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