The following is an article from the April 2019 issue of "Get Your Ducks in a Row" Carolina Family Estate Planning's free newsletter. You can read the rest of the issue, as well as back issues of our newsletter online at www.carolinafep.com/library/newsletters/ or subscribe for free at www.carolinafep.com/newsletter.cfm
There’s a quote that’s been rolling around in my head for the past few weeks. It comes to me by way of a friend of mine—one of the wisest people I know. It’s at the same time disturbing and liberating. Maybe a little scary:
“Death is the only wise advisor that we have. Whenever you feel, as you always do, that everything is going wrong and you're about to be annihilated, turn to your death and ask if that is so. Your death will tell you that you're wrong; that nothing really matters outside its touch. Your death will tell you, 'I haven't touched you yet.'”
If you’re not familiar with the source, it might not seem controversial to you at all. Journey to Ixtlan is the third book in the series by anthropologist-turned-philosopher Carlos Castaneda, and it follows two prequels in which Castaneda delves into psychotropic substances and spiritual exploration. I’m not going to get in to those touchy, controversial topics. Instead, I want to talk about this other touchy, controversial topic:
Our life, as we experience it, lasts for a limited time.
That’s as much a blessing as a curse. We are, of course, deeply invested in our own lives. There’s a sweetness to life that we can taste in good relationships, satisfying work, experiences in nature, and touches of the transcendent. Life can also be painful, filled with heartache, loneliness, illness. Sometimes the pain comes when we’re confronted by the truth that life doesn’t last forever.
But the truth can also motivate us to live fully.
Let me give you a happier analogy. Remember the last time you took a vacation from work? Do you remember what you did the week before vacation? Ever notice how productive you were, trying to get all the loose ends tied up so you could enjoy a relaxing trip with your family?
If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, would that change your plans for today? It seems likely. Death, as a wise adviser, tells us our time is limited. Best to act now.
I’m going to let you in on a secret: not one of us knows the date and time of our death.
I know talking about "living as if today were your last day" is practically cliché. I see posts about it on Facebook and, frankly, I find it a little trite. Because in our line of work, as we walk beside families, sickness and death do not feel like a blessing at all.
But here’s the thing: though people often think the work we do is about preparing for death, we view it as helping you live fully. If what’s important to you is maintaining your family’s well-being or your own personal dignity, the way to do that is by getting your things in order.
We often have clients come to us who have just received a terminal diagnosis. “If death is near,” they tell us, “I want to make sure I've done everything I can.”
And once you can trust the plan you’ve made, you can be fully present. To live your life completely.
Finally, in consideration of death as a wise advisor, I feel compelled to remind you of the following: if there is a friend you’ve been putting off talking to, call them now. If there’s a trip you’ve been planning to take, plan it now. If you haven’t told your kids or your spouse you love them, or your sister or brother you forgive them, if you are at all so inclined, do it now.
Because it's never too late.
Until it's too late.