April 23, 2018

When Do You Plan On Dying?

When do you plan on dying?

Unless you're suicidal this is a preposterous question. You might generally think you'll make it to your 80s but other than that you can't plan your death.

So you plan for life.

You save, invest, study, work hard for the future. This is particularly true if you are frugal and intend to retire at some point. The problem is that death can creep up from behind at any moment.

Over the past few years I have known several people in their 40s who have died. In most cases, cancer was the culprit. One day they feel a strange pain and 12 months later they take their final breath. It always starts with hope. People are strong willed but too often the cancer is stronger.

It could happen to anyone.

Someone reading this post will be dead from cancer within two years. Indeed, that person could be me. For some reason I've always thought I wouldn't make it to age 50.

One friend who died a couple years ago was inspirational. She was a hard worker and single mother who's son was my daughter's classmate. She was a tough woman - the kind you'd expect to beat cancer. Yet, after a two year battle she died, a shell of her former self.

I will always remember her because she encouraged my photography. When she died I suddenly lost interest in taking pictures. Photography is a solitary pursuit, but, like most art, motivated by some sort of social validation.

More importantly I will always remember her for providing me a different perspective on life - one from someone who can see their end date. She confided that she regretted the time and energy she wasted working extra hard to save money and pay down her mortgage.

This hasn't necessarily changed my behaviour. I'm still saving for a rainy day and paying down my debts, but I now take the work required to achieve those objectives less seriously. If people at work think I'm stupid or an ass I dont give a fuck. I arrive at 9 and leave at 5. I take proper lunches. I no longer bend over backwards to accomodate bureaucratic incompetence.

Moreover, I now try to savour the things I enjoy on a daily basis - family, reading, art, writing, chocolate, music, cannabis, whisky, coffee and red wine. I can get serious happiness sitting in a cafe with a book.

Of course, all this money I'm saving can't follow me in death. But I still have to prepare for a long life. Whatever I don't take with me in death can still be put to good use by my wife or kids.

The point I took away from my friend is that we need to plan for the future but live for today.

2 comments:

  1. Thank you. Yes. Life is often an odd place to be but interesting and beautiful all the same. Finding and adhering to a good set of rules to navigate it all, is imperative. When our daughter (17) was told (after she determined from the internet that she had a possible 75 percent chance of living 5 years with her cancer) that, no... she had a 100 to 0 percent chance of making it by her oncologist, it changed everything. After the shock and acceptance, we agreed to live at 100 percent. Now we do. She's 5 years in remission.
    The "no guarantees" is grounding and can be freeing, I think and we can still make our best efforts to prepare for the long haul as well.
    Make art (because the visual language is our first language and speaks to our core), err on the side of being kind, make some money, give some away and live life well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Happy to hear from you Denise! Thank you for sharing your daughter's story. I can't imagine the strength it must have taken to get through that.

      "The visual language is our first language..." Such a brilliant statement.

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