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You Can’t Live As If You Only Had Three Months to Live

4721798240_0beb2a46ab_z It’s a challenging thought: “How would you live if you learned you only had three months left?”

Most of us would probably make some changes, or at least we’d think long and hard about “what matters.”

If your job sucks, you’d probably quit. You might travel to that place you’ve always dreamed of. You might pursue a long-time dream that you never got around to until now.

And you’d almost certainly aim to restore harmony in any broken relationships, and perhaps say farewell to as many friends as possible.

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“Most Ambitions Belong to the Past”: Reflections on A Neurosurgeon’s Final Year of Life


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I recently stumbled upon an essay from Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon who died earlier this year at the age of 37.

I read the whole thing several times and was struck by several passages, including this one:

"Everyone succumbs to finitude. I suspect I am not the only one who reaches this pluperfect state. Most ambitions are either achieved or abandoned; either way, they belong to the past.

The future, instead of the ladder toward the goals of life, flattens out into a perpetual present. Money, status, all the vanities the preacher of Ecclesiastes described, hold so little interest: a chasing after wind, indeed."

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What Do People Say At the End of Their Lives?

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If given the chance, what do people choose for their last reflections and comments? A veteran hospice chaplain gives an unflinching answer:

"They talk about the love they felt, and the love they gave. Often they talk about love they did not receive, or the love they did not know how to offer, the love they withheld, or maybe never felt for the ones they should have loved unconditionally.

They talk about how they learned what love is, and what it is not.

This is how we talk about the meaning of our lives. That is how we talk about the big spiritual questions of human existence."

Link: What People Talk About Before They Die

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Robert Genn’s Last Year to Live

They considered how to spend the time they had left together. There were thoughts of trips to Hawaii or the Galapagos, but Genn wanted to end his life as he had lived it: in his studio, making art, with his family close by. James fashioned a reclining chair so his father could continue to paint,…

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The Opposite of Loneliness

Marina Keegan was a writer, activist, and student at Yale. Before graduation she shared a few words for her fellow students: We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life. It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just…

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Chasing Daylight: Some Thoughts on Mortality

I recently read two books about the choices people make when faced with the knowledge of their forthcoming death. The first book is called Last Acts, and was written by a doctor who worked predominantly with hospice patients. Throughout the book, people make different choices—some seek to create closure with their loved ones and prepare as much as possible to say farewell to life as we know it. Others refuse to accept the reality of their forthcoming death and try to fight as long as possible ...

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