Live Like You Were Dying

I recently had the good fortune to attend a Tim McGraw concert with my oldest daughter (thanks to my niece who was unable to use her ticket). It was a very enjoyable night. The weather was all one could ask of a pre-summer evening (as it was pointed out to me, it was not yet summer); we sat and danced on the lawn outside the amphitheater that housed the musicians and the more expensive seats (though we could not see as much, I think our location was better than most under cover as we had a bit of a breeze). The music was good and I got to spend some rare one-on-one time with my daughter.

McGraw closed the night with his signature “Live Like You Were Dying.” In this song, he tells of meeting a man who was faced with a serious disease and the epiphany he wanted to share. He says “I went skydiving,” (go ahead, sing along) “I went Rocky Mountain climbing, I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu…”
These are true “bucket list” items, and it is common to put them off for “someday.” Unfortunately, for many someday doesn’t come until you are faced with a true life crisis like a life-threatening illness. I think the real meat of the song however, deals with personal relationships. The song continues, “I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter, and I gave forgiveness I’d been denying. And he said, someday I hope you get the chance, to live like you were dying.”

Too often in today’s world, we get wrapped up in ourselves and our “things” and neglect what is really important, those we love and who love us. Things are said that hurt, things are misinterpreted (especially in our high-tech society where there is little face-to-face interaction), words are exchanged in anger or frustration that do not fully express our thoughts, feelings, intentions.

Anger is not an acceptable emotion in our society. There doesn’t seem to be a “nice” way to tell people that you don’t like something or that certain things are objectionable. Voicing displeasure frequently results in a reaction, a sort of “How dare you say that!” This can then escalate quickly with both parties saying things they didn’t intend to and quite honestly, that are not even relevant to the current situation. Few people are able to sit quietly, listen to grievances and ponder whether there may be any merit to them. Perhaps that stems in part from our belief that we have the “freedom” to do and say whatever we want (however, I don’t believe that is what our founding fathers intended in declaring we have freedom of speech).

I came to the realization a couple years ago that the truly loving makes one completely vulnerable. If we do not love, others have no power to hurt us. In my life, I have been most hurt by those whom I love the most. Knowing this, would I have chosen to not love? Of course not. The good greatly outweighs the bad. This realization has given me a different outlook, however, one in which I somehow find it easier to forgive.

The flip side is that we also have the power to create the greatest wounds in those who love us. This is something we really don’t want to hear. Realizing you have hurt your loved ones is a very different, but equally devastating, kind of pain. Sometimes this is unintentional, sometimes it is reactionary (they did something unacceptable, so we have to get even). Sometimes, the perception of an issue is lopsided – one may be more vested in the disagreement than the other while the other may not know the extent of the issue (truly stepping in another’s shoes is very difficult, even when we try). Sometimes a short cooling off period makes things better and things can be talked through (or not; some things are better left unsaid). Other times, a simple apology clears the air. Sometimes, parties need to agree to disagree. In some cases, communication ceases and it seems like the relationship is doomed. This is the kind of rift mentioned in the song, where one (or both) parties withhold forgiveness.

Having experienced such rifts, I can say that they are really not worth it. Being “right” can sometimes be miserable. Not being able to share special and everyday moments with someone who just “gets you” is lonely. Getting older makes one realize how precious life is and how much value is added having wonderful people share it with you. Too many have been taken from us too soon. Personally, I want people in my corner, even if they do not always agree with me. When they have the courage to tell me, I know that they care (even when I don’t like what they are saying). I don’t put conditions on relationships, nor do I insist on apologies. There are a number of people I want in my life, and I accept them as they are (after all, why would I want them around if they need to change?)

I am not saying that it is okay to treat people badly or that one should say it is okay that someone has spoken ill of or to you. Some wounds take time to heal. No matter how hard we try, words cannot be taken back. However, it is often the case that both parties share some level of blame. Maybe there is some kernel of truth in what was said, something you don’t want to hear or admit about yourself. Take a look at yourself; can you really cast the first stone? Maybe what was said or done is not really as horrible as you first thought and you have overreacted a bit. Maybe words were exchanged and things kept getting worse, even if you meant to make them better. Maybe more time and reflection is needed to put things in perspective. Going back to the song, the man “became a friend a friend would like to have,” and then “took a good long hard look, at what I’d do If I could do it all again.”

There are some decisions that everyone has to make for themselves. We all make mistakes (I have a rather hot Italian temper that gets me in trouble sometimes). Consider what you want from life. Who do you want in it? How do you want to be remembered?

These words speak to me: Speak sweetly. Give forgiveness. (Perhaps more importantly, accept it when it is offered to you, without excuses, conditions or reservations.) We are only on this earth for a short time … Live like you are dying.

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