The muggy Monday morning after a long, confusing weekend spent in the hospital lobby, my mind whirled as I drove down a nearly empty road. The sister of my best friend, James, was the bloody victim of a traumatic car accident. The crash mangled her body and killed two thirds of her brain tissue. I had spent that weekend with James, comforting him, crying with him, and praying with him, as his sister hovered on the brink of death for days. I never knew anyone personally that had died. I rolled to a stop at a red light and turned on the radio to numb the pain of my thoughts. My speakers poured out these lyrics:
I asked him when it sank in,
That this might really be the real end?
How’s it hit you when you get that kind of news?
Man whatcha do?
An’ he said: “I went sky diving, I went rocky mountain climbing,
“I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu.
“And I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter,
“And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying.”…
Like tomorrow was a gift,
And you got eternity,
To think about what you’d do with it.
An’ what did you do with it?
When I heard these words, by Tim McGraw, the chaos in my mind came screaming to a stop. Everything that weekend led up to the overwhelming reality that sank in for the first time: I too will die. I shifted into park and sat still for several minutes thinking about my selfish, task-oriented life. And I cried. I cried hard. Why had I never realized the brevity and preciousness of life before now?
As I wiped the tears from my cheeks, my thought process began to change. I have the gift of today. Today, I have the choice to drink in life to its fullest, and, as the song proposes, to “love deeper and speak sweeter.” Today, I have the choice to live with a grateful heart, instead of a selfish sense of entitlement.
That day, I discovered that reflection motivates the act of truly living. If we are always on the go, we can get swept away in the business of our culture. But, if we do take time to stop and reflect, we might be able to keep the reality of death in the corner of our mind as a backdrop for us to view life. Then, life can suddenly appear more vibrant.
Since then, stop lights have become an important reminder for me that I’m not in control, and life is a precious gift. I am only one of the countless cars on the road, and my road, like everyone else’s, will eventually come to an end. So I am inspired to make the most of the journey. I’ve learned to step on the brakes to take a moment to stop and reflect, so I can fully go and live.
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