Last week, as I was browsing the local online obituaries, I was stunned when I saw a familiar name. In bold, black letters was the name of a former co-worker, someone I had previously worked with for almost 9 years. I do not know the circumstances of his death. I do know he was younger than I and, although we hadn’t worked together for over two years, I still remember him as a friendly, pleasant man who appeared healthy and happy; to say his passing was sad and shocking is an understatement.
While processing this news, I was again reminded of how quickly life can change for any one of us. Perhaps it is because I’m getting old and facing a “milestone” birthday next year, but even before reading of my colleague’s sudden passing, I recently found myself pondering what really matters in life and then lamenting how much time I have wasted, and continue to waste, on what truly does not matter.
I know I have allowed too many unimportant concerns occupy my time, take up valuable mental real estate, and zap my emotional and physical energy. I need to clean up my act before it’s too late. Whether it’s dealing with the mammoth or minuscule issues in life, I need to do some house cleaning. Unfortunately, that is sometimes easier said than done, especially when we are “in the moment” and a truly minor tribulation takes on mammoth proportions.
When I find myself becoming overwrought over some nonsense or worrying incessantly about the trivial, I try to remember that life is fragile. Life can be over in a moment, is this really how I want to spend my time? Will this issue matter in two years? In five years? Who is my anger really hurting? How can I be forgiven if I can’t forgive others? Will adding my two cents to a Facebook argument change the situation in dispute or will it just increase an already volatile situation? WILL ANY OF THIS MATTER WHEN I’M DEAD? The answer to that question is almost always, NO.
What will matter, then? Well, I can only answer such a question by considering what I remember most about the people I’ve lost. When I think about loved ones who are no longer here, I mostly remember the way they made me feel about myself, how they treated others, and how they chose to spend their time. I do not ruminate over petty disputes, who they argued with, if they were able to exact revenge on someone, or whether or not they could fluently debate politics.
It is so easy to allow our minds, hearts, and spirits to become cluttered with unnecessary emotional garbage. How often we go to bed angry with a loved one smugly resolute that we’ll have plenty of time to make amends “sometime tomorrow.” I am not suggesting we should all live in a constant state of fear or panic, but perhaps we should take more time to consider what matters most now, while we are here, while loved ones are still with us. If there are words we want or need to say, we should say them. If there is something we want to achieve, we should waste no time in working towards that goal. It shouldn’t take a glance through the obituaries or a tragic news headline to remind us that tomorrow is guaranteed to no one.