“What if you died tomorrow?” What then?
C. Dianne Phillips, firstname.lastname@example.org
Today, I had a conversation with a young friend who asked me, “What if you died tomorrow? Would you regret anything? What then?”
To which I replied, “If I died tomorrow?” Well….I would be in heaven and enjoying new experiences…a new life. My death day is in fact my “eternal life” day. I wouldn’t be unhappy at all because I would be so distracted by complete joy, that I wouldn’t care about this life anymore.”
My shocked friend said, “But…what if there is no heaven? Then you will have wasted your life.”
My reply was, “What makes you think I have wasted my life?”
He then listed all of the ways I have wasted my life…
- You don’t have sex. You said you haven’t had sex for almost 20 years..that is horrible…..”And?”
- You are alone…you don’t have anyone in your life to love you…. “Yes I do.”
- You haven’t reached your potential in your career. You wanted to have a PhD and be doing meaningful research in geophysics. You didn’t do that yet… “Yet is the operative word don’t you think?” big smile.
- You haven’t finished your bucket list yet….you are going to travel when you retire.
- Visiting Peru and visiting Machu Picchu
- Recording a Celtic Music Album
- visiting Iceland to see the auroras
- revisiting Mt. Redoubt, Alaska
- summiting Mt. Fuji in Japan
- Deep Sea Fishing in Costa Rica
- visiting the East African Rift and summiting Kilimanjaro
- summiting Mt. Rainier in Washington State
- visiting the pope at the vatican
- visiting the Holy Land
- visiting Fr. Ravi in India
- joining the Peace Corp and helping others
- flying to the moon to see my student’s 3D printed cities… “And?”
I then explained how I could die tomorrow and feel as though I have lived a full life.
“My young friend, I have lived a very full, wonderful, life and I feel blessed. I am never alone, because I know that Jesus, Joseph, Mary, and all the angels and saints are with me always. I do not fear death. I do not fear life. My only fear is not being loved by those I cherish.”
“I am thankful for my life and all experiences, because all of them together have formed me into the person that I am today and that person is happy, loving and finds joy in almost all aspects of life. For this I am so lucky…so blessed. Through my almost 60 years on this planet, I have had so many experiences…I have truly lived. I have truly loved and I have been loved. Life is only dull if you don’t engage in the sensuous (of the senses) experience of living.
The joy of discovery has filled my life.. when human relationships and experiences have let me down or tried to destroy me…it has been the beauty and fascinating facets of nature, the planet, the solar system, the cosmos, music, art, pursuit of knowledge, spirituality and seeking the divine..that has filled my senses and connected my soul to the positive, pulsing energy of life itself.”
He still looked unconvinced so I began recounting specific experiences….
“Look, my life is a culmination of lots of different experiences… I have
- sat on a mountain top and looked out across the planet…while the wind blew my hair and body so hard that I felt I couldn’t stand…instead of feeling fear, I spread my arms and embraced the experience.
- slept on a desert floor, shivering cold, as I watched scorpions and rock rattlers skitter by, as their bodies cast shadows on the white sands glistening in the full moon light. I didn’t feel fear, I was fascinated by their movement and how they avoided us all. They had business that had nothing to do with the human burritos laying there in their space.
- felt the cool earth between my fingers as I broke up earth and removed weeds for planting….smelling the organic components of the soil as I destroyed the organic horizon of the profile…
- sat on a rock that was formed billions of years ago to eat my lunch as I watched chipmunks doing what nature requires of them…blush…..also watched butterflies…elk…deer…squirrels…marmots…snakes…mesmerized by the mechanics of stimulus and response
- eaten raw vegetables in the field as they are harvested and experienced the true flavor of each…okra is really good after you remove the fuzz
- smelled the dew coated morning glories in a peanut patch as I hoed each row each morning to ensure their full growth…
- swam in the ocean, in a lake, in a pond and in a river and can remember how each smelled, tasted…felt against my skin…
- bathed in glacial wash water, mountain streams…brrrr
- enjoyed the feel of dust and salt on my face, neck, legs….after a long day of mapping in a high desert..
- watched cactus flowers open at the beginning of the day and close at the end of the day
- been frightened by a variety of snakes; bull and rattlesnakes in particular, just to watch them slither off to leave me be
- Driven a tractor, pulled a wagon with a horse, drove a truck…both manual and automatic transmission
- taken apart an engine and felt the oil on my hands
- helped to build a house…hammering nails, sawing wood…mixed and laid cement
- bucked bails of hay, stacked hay and felt the itchiness of the fescue on my arms, neck, skin…marveled at the mechanics of the devices used to cut and form the bails of hay
- used a wash board to scrub clothes in cold water with lye soap, smelled the changes in the scents of the clothes from wash to rinse to hanging on the clothesline…to removing them dry…each stage having it’s own scent…
- loved, been loved
- fished from the bank of a river, from a boat with my dad and from a fishing boat on the ocean…felt the skin of the fish and experienced the sadness of contemplating the pain and fear it must be experiencing…
- stargazed and used devices used by the earliest observers and imagined how they must have felt..
- learned to do complex mathematical operations without a computer or a calculator…just my pencil…my slide rule…trig tables…my eraser…my own mind…
- watched technology change from the birth of the space age, with rockets, telescopes and computers filling entire rooms to reveal the images and expanse of space to being able to access all and hold all information in the palm of our hand…
- experienced the joy of the human sexual experience
- experienced the pain of labor and the orgasmic experience of delivering the new life…feeling it wriggling and hearing the cry…
- experienced the joy of feeling the movement of a new life within
- experienced the pain and loss of feeling that same life struggle to live and then die because technology couldn’t provide viability
- experienced the pain and loss of having people I love say untrue and mean spirited things about me and hate me
- experienced the alienation by others because of my eccentric nature and intellect
- held a life in my arms and nursed and nurtured that life from birth until adulthood or until the child detaches naturally.
- held the body of someone as they died in my arms
- urinated in the wild without getting an in my boots and marveled at the steam it created as it hit the ice, cold ground
- milked a cow, a goat and marveled at the tactile mechanics of the process of squeezing the milk from another living creature
- I have known the love and friendship of many animals
Baby (cow), One Eye (chicken), tiger (cat), tee titty (cat), Jigger (dog), Little Joe and Hoss (dogs), Oscar (cat), Bo (cat), Callie (cat), Lady (dog), Mutt and Jeff (cats), Abigail (cat), Foxey (cat), Max (dog), Ricco (dog), Isabell (cat) and Jane (cat)
- laid on a mountain top and on an ancient volcano and watched the Milky Way and constellations as they moved across the night sky, from sundown to sunup…experiencing the changes in the temperature and moisture as the night passed…felt the warmth of my own breath as it steamed up my glasses in the cold night air..truly an amazing experience
- hiked into an active volcano to view the building dome and to discuss the chemistry of the magma…feeling the gentle rumblings and the cascade of weathered rock material as gravity brought it down the inner slope of the volcanic cone…through this experience realizing the awesome power of nature
- hiked into the mojave desert to view debris flows …feeling the loose, dry sand beneath my boots and tasting the salt from the rapid evaporation of my sweat…
- seen the optical effects of light in all types of nature scenarios;
rainbows, double triple…sun dogs…
- viewed the formation of tornadoes and felt the changes in the air…the smell of grass and organics…the changes in humidity…as the storm cloud approached..stood in the rear flank draft of a storm while the dust and wind, sand blasted my legs, arms, back…shielding my face…tasting the organic components of the sediments stirred by the wind
- walked on a storm break and tasted the salt of the ocean mist and watched the sun set on the ocean
- skied down slopes of unconsolidated rock material to escape dime and nickel sized hail as it pelted my body
- sensed the presence of predators stalking me in the wild and singing to cover my natural feelings of fear…
- felt lightening strike the tree on a slope below me and smelled the sulfur from the near miss.
- watched a student finally get a difficult concept after explaining over and over again
- facilitated in the learning process and felt the sense of accomplishment when a student thought for themselves and learned to use logic and reason
- had a wide variety of musical experiences….all good…all unique…
- experienced the elation of finishing up a strenuous and exhilarating corp marching show by pushing my trumpet into the air, horns high, and feeling the emotional and musical climax of the performance..
- experienced the moving melodies and counter melodies within a concert band and orchestral group performance
- experienced the extension of my soul through the penny whistle as the instrument becomes a conduit to my deepest self…all the sadness, all the joy…all…
- experienced the primal rhythms stored in the human neocortex through folk, reggae. and celtic percussion instruments…driving reels, hornpipes, polkas, jigs…blues,
- experienced the pride of deriving formulas that were once derived by past scientific minds… finding the solution to a complex problem…yes!
After a litany of experiences, which only slightly touched on the wide variety of different experiences of this old sciencegranny, the young friend said, “Okay, Okay.. Wow” You HAVE lived. I hope I get to have some of those experiences too. I take it all back“… big smile.
I then said, “Who needs sex when you have all of that?!! And I’m not dead yet. I still have about 20 more good years…who knows what I’ll do by then? I still intend to go to the moon before I die.”
The young friend then said, “Wow, I hope I can enjoy my life as much as you seem to enjoy yours right now. How do you manage to stay so positive all the time?”
I then said, “I have learned how to keep it all in perspective. I remember, 100 years from now no one will give a shit. You’ll be dead, I’ll be dead, anyone who would care will be dead…so I just take one day at a time and LIVE…just live! Just embrace all, good bad, pain, joy….It is all LIFE. Being happy and fulfilled is a matter of choice. Choose to LIVE. Choose Joy. Choose to embrace it all.”
He then said, “But aren’t you afraid there is nothing after you die?”
I said, “Well my faith tells me there is life after death. If that is not true, then I won’t be able to know will I? I’ll be dead and won’t care, will I?.” Big smile 🙂
“Doesn’t that bother you?…I hate not knowing for sure.” he replied.
“Nope. The only thing I have any control over now is “now,” and I don’t even really have any control over that now do I? I take care of what I am indeed able to take care of and I give the rest of it to The Lord God. I think of that song …”Jesus, take the wheel”… It is when I realize how small, insignificant, how powerless I truly am over the cosmos and the natural processes of life, that I am confident that there is something, someone, a higher realm of existence, and I am just a small, yet significant grain entrained in that mix…moving along with it. The only thing I have any control over is how I feel about the experiences. So, the past is the past, the future will be whatever it will be. I only have the present…this moment in time…and I choose to experience it and never cease to find joy in the process of discovery within it. If there is no eternal life, then that is all the more reason for me to choose to live this life. Isn’t it?”
He asked one final question,
“You seem so confident that there is eternal life. How do you know this?”
to which I replied,
“Because The Lord has made this known to me…to you..to all of us…he made it known to our ancestors, and The Lord makes it known to all who are open to the reality and the truth. The Lord has placed this confidence in my heart. I sought The Lord and He answered me. Truly.
You are still in the self actualization process that we all go through. You are seeking knowledge. You are questioning all. This is what you are supposed to do. I, however, have passed beyond that experience and now am on the mountain top of my life experiences…on a plateau if you will..where I now look out across the vastness of life and existence and I see how it all seems to fit together, from my reference frame and experiences of course…how it all must be and I know there is so much more.
I have reached the apex of my own life experience and I no longer need proof, I just know. It is a great place to be. I am now allowed to just LIVE instead of seeking life. I still feel pain. I still feel disappointment. I still feel and experience everything, I just have a knowing, a peace in all. God has allowed me to have a full, wonderful life. I look forward to what is to come. My hope is not in man, but in the endless, boundless, cosmic existence to come. The Lord has given me the freedom to choose life now and everlasting life too. I have free will. I choose…so my choice is clear and will lead to eternal life. I know it and do not need to prove it.
The true key to happiness is to praise God for all. Each day when I rise, the first words on my lips are “praise God.” When I have a flat tire, I say “praise God.” When I look up at the night sky, I praise God. Life can’t be anything but joyful if you choose to find joy in every experience and praise God for every opportunity to experience that life.”