April 15, 2021

Toward The End of My Life I'd Like To Look Back and Say...




Our mortality is never the best topic to keep a party going, impress someone new, or say to a mortgage broker when you're hoping for a thirty-year loan. Religions talk about how to live one's life on earth or to prepare for eternity. But, that messy stage between here and there: not a crowd-pleaser.

Then, why am I bringing it up? Because I am retired, therefore fearless, and ran out of pleasant blog topics this week? No, though each of those reasons would work. I want to make it the focus of this post because I believe it is essential to consider how we will finish the race while still having time to make course adjustments. I'll give you examples of what I mean:

1) I'd like to look back and say I loved often and well. Not in the sense that I had a string of love affairs or relationships (!). Rather, I lived in a way that fulfilled my very human need to be deeply cared for while giving as good as I got. I have concluded that too many people view love as something in limited supply, so they parcel it out to only a few people, Or it is only given when there is an equal or greater flow of love coming back. 

Love given only with an expectation of reciprocation is not really love. This powerful force for good is meant to be spread freely. The "love your enemy" admonition did not continue with, "if he loves you back."  Love, used as a weapon, tool of power, or to get what you want, is coercion or deception. 

2) I'd like to look back and say I didn't always settle for the easy or the quick. While only a children's tale, the Tortoise and the Hare is based on how the world really works. Sure, some hit on an idea or invention and become insanely rich and powerful almost overnight. But, they are the exception, not the rule. 

Most of us build a life with steady steps forward, back a bit, maybe sideways for a time, then forward again before repeating the process. We may not have a specific goal or finish line in mind. But, we have been around the block enough to know shortcuts often leave us lost. Not putting in the time and effort on most anything usually does not end well. Whether a relationship, a financial plan, a career approach, finding a passion or meaning in life, there is work to be done. 

3) I'd like to look back and say I am leaving a positive memory with those left behindOne way to guarantee a smile on my mom or dad's face was to state, quite honestly, that I had no bad memories of my youth. There was nothing they or I had done that left me with a "what if" or "why did you do that" feeling. I don't believe this was a case of selective memory. I just had nothing to build a memoir around that had disasters or rough patches to recount. 

I would very much like my family to say much the same as they remember me. Of course, being separate individuals, we all interpret events in our own way, using our own filters and experiences. Certainly, something thing (or things) I did might not be all smiles and hugs. But, I am doing my best to hold those recollections to a minimum.

4) I'd like to look back and say I don't have very many regrets. Sure, there are times in both my private and personal life that I screwed up. I have occasional dreams of going back and choosing a different response or reaction to something that bothers me. Of course, that's a little unfair: what I have learned in almost 72 years on this earth should mean I would adjust my approach if I knew then what I understand now. 

Even so, I believe I have the opportunity with every decision made every day to choose wisely, to do something that doesn't compromise my principles or cause harm to anyone else. Being true to myself was a common phrase my parents and uncle shared with me often. They understood the biggest fake in the room is the person who takes a position, presents a facade, or makes a choice that is strictly transactional: only for the moment. They knew that ultimately, that falseness would have a cost, one of regrets.

5) I'd like to look back and say my spiritual journey evolved over the years, bringing me closer to the ultimate answers. Not having the answers, certainly. But understanding enough to keep asking questions and working out reasonable answers in my own mind. Even though I have no idea what really happens after death, readings, discussions, and thinking about life's ultimate issues leave me more comfortable with both the possible and the uncertainties. 


A life in balance: is that the ultimate answer?



17 comments:

  1. I'd like to look back and say I made a difference in a few people's lives.

    Where's Clarence the Angel when you need him?

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    1. Making a positive difference in just one life is a goal I would hope all of us aspire to. Imagine how much better the world would be.

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  2. Leaving a positive memory with those left behind hits me every time I attend a funeral. Even though I won't be attending my own funeral to hear the comments, it would be nice if I had a positive impact on a few people.

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    1. I have read about people who have their memorial service while still alive, just to hear the comments. Like you, I don't expect to know what is being said at mine, but hope for the best and work to make it so.

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  3. Your #3 resonates with me...leaving positive memories behind with those who knew me and that really does go hand-in-hand with your first goal of having a loving nature. I would add my own goal of continuing to fight for causes I believe in, to speak up when injustices are taking place. I don't want my last years to be just about me and what makes me happy.

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    1. Being more concerned about not just personal happiness is a trait that seems to come with age. Many have a broader awareness and sense of responsibility to make a difference for others.

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  4. I will join the dustbin of the millions who are no longer remembered and only were for a short time by a very few people. I’m not complaining, just the way it is. I say live now and enjoy what you want to and you won’t get to do everything, so be content with the mundane.

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    1. Actually, being content with the mundane is an important mark of maturity. Every moment of every day will not be special or memorable. But each has the potential to affect someone else in a positive way.

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    2. Mary, I often say to myself when I am worried about one thing or another "In 100 years no one will know I was ever alive never mind what it is I am worried about". It helps me put things in perspective.

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  5. I hope that those who spent their precious time with me say "I am so glad I did." I don't want/need recognition for the community service and monetary donations. Those are a privilege of working hard, planning and saving for this stage of my life :-)

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    1. I totally agree. I think most of us do not want public recognition or thanks. That comes from an internal sense of satisfaction at a job well done

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  6. Loretta Lynn (country singer) was asked in an interview what she was doing in her later years. She replied, "Just trying to matter." I hope that I mattered in my life. And that would encompass your 5 points.

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    1. "Just trying to matter" is a great way of expressing the wish of most of us. Just to live and take up space or only think about ourselves can't be why we are on the earth.

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  7. I love your first point about sharing love widely! SO true! I hope that my family and my friends (and my dogs!) all remember me as someone who loved them always...even when it was hard to. If we show love to just one other person at a time when that person is hard to love - and aren't we all at one point or another? - and they then pay that forward, the world would be a more peaceful, respectful, and kinder place.

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    1. I firmly believe we were created to love...ourselves and others. To simply be born and eventually die with no sense of our place in things and how one person can make even the slightest difference to someone else, makes the 70 or 80 years we spend on this planet rather pointless. We are hardwired to care.

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  8. Hi Bob! I think it is so important for us all to consider these questions and answer them for ourselves rather than hope or pretend we will never pass on. We will. It is inevitable. But far from making it a negative or a something to fight or resist, I tend to think there is a grace about it that can help assist us in both looking back and moving forward. Only time will tell of course, but I can't help feeling that talking about it, writing about it, will help us do just that. ~Kathy

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    1. Mortality is not the most pleasant subject, but is inevitable. To not deal with its consequences is foolhardy, since the outcome is predetermined regardless of our distaste for it.

      Thinking about how we would like to exit this world while we can still make a difference and manage the process is the most logical approach. Doing so with grace is best.

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