How’s your day going?” I asked the man at the United Flight Club check-in counter. “Seems like you’ve had to deal with a lot of unhappy travelers.”
My flight home to North Dakota isn’t for another four hours, and I decided to do some work in the member’s lounge before I go. It was a long wait, as many flights are being cancelled due to weather.
“It’s lovely,” he answered. “When you get to a certain age, you’re grateful for everyday.”
A sudden death in the McDonald’s drive-thru
In the not so distant past, I’d have given a polite smile and a nod in response to this man’s profound words. Acknowledgement of their value, but no real understanding. Now, they resonated with me, and as I passed through the gates, I thanked him for reminding me life is precious. I learned this lesson for myself a few months back.
I’d gone out early in the morning to satisfy a craving for McDonalds, and witnessed the man behind me die right in the front seat of his car. Out of respect for him, I’ll spare the details, but if you’d like to read further about the experience, here’s a link.
The experience rooted itself deep within my heart and mind, and there isn’t a day I don’t think about his fate. He had been reaching for his food, and in an instant, he was no more.
When I remember him, I wonder a lot about his life. There was a happy meal amongst the food piled at the foot of his car door, so he was someone’s father, a son, perhaps a husband.
Did he die with regret or make his peace?
The Christmas that changed my views on life
This Christmas, I spent a week with my father and his new girlfriend, who is decades younger than him. When my sister and I met Tess before at Thanksgiving, we behaved in a way I will regret until the day I die. I was so focused on how the relationship would effect me, I didn’t think of my father.
My father is a very private man, one who has made mistakes and is trying to better himself. He didn’t have to allow my sister and I to meet the woman he loves, but he did, and we crushed his feelings.
After a fight broke out, my father and I made amends via some good weed and Home Alone 2. I’ll admit, it would have been easier to tell him off, but I chose to stay. Before we said our goodbyes, my father told me we gave him the best Christmas he’d ever had.
Taking a moment to think of my father saved me from making a painful and lasting mistake.
The one question I’ll ask myself
As humans, we have little control over when we leave this world. I always believed my fear of death stemmed from this uncertainty. I soon learned it’s not the when, but the how that terrifies me. Will we die with secrets or grudges for reasons we no longer recall? Will we curse ourselves for all the wasted time?
There are reports of people on their deathbeds wishing they’d divorced sooner, spent less time at work and more with family.
As I sit here in the airport and think back to Christmas, I remember the one thought I kept asking myself: Will I regret hurting my dad?
The answer was an absolute yes. Everyday now, I’ll be asking myself if I’ll regret my actions if I were to die, and already, it’s made me a better human.
I’m going to live like I’m dying
Going forward, I’m going to live each day like I hope the man in the drive-thru did, with kindness and more understanding. I’ll be living each day as if it is truly my last, and making choices that bring light to my life.
Try it for yourself, it could be the key to living a peaceful and happy life.