Three Life Lessons – What I learned from Dying

I answered the phone one morning last December. The voice on the other side said, “Can you help me please angel? I’m dying and I know nothing at all about filling out paperwork for that.”

There was something about his voice that was loving and sincere and calm.  He had the voice of a teacher, a friend, someone you would miss when they were gone.  Over the next 9 months John and I had a number of phone calls.  After each conversation, I would sit for moment and reflect.  What he left me with were life lessons – ideas that I would like to share with you today so that you can have the benefit of his generosity. 


First life lesson – everyone matters

Second life lesson – be present
Third life lesson – say yes

Everyone Matters
John never called me by name – he always said, “You are my angel.  You are here to help me.”   It made me smile. And it made me want to help him.   After a few conversations I was pretty sure that he called everyone his angel. His Power of Attorney, his doctors, his life insurance agent – we were all his angels. He knew he needed us.  And he treated us all like we mattered to him personally.  I know we all did our best for him – not just because we were experts – but because he set the bar really high.  From his example I learned that being aware and appreciative of others – brings out the best in everyone.  Myself included.   


Be Present
Just like every person counts – every moment counts. Being right here in the moment is where infinity exists.  You just don’t ask a dying man about tomorrow or next year or even yesterday.  You talk about the right here right now of the weather, the doctor’s advice and the forms that need filling.  In this present moment awareness everything is perfect and as it should be.   It’s the past and the future that bring out our guilt and fear.  In this present moment we can decide to be happy, to be relaxed, to be grateful.  Everything is possible.  I once asked John, “Why do you sound so happy?” He replied, “Right here, right now I am alive.  And that’s all that matters.”  Yes.      

Say Yes
John faced his fear. He picked up the phone and let a total stranger know what was happening. He had to say yes to his greatest fear. Admitting he was dying.  In saying yes, he also said yes to spending the rest of his life consciously.  He made decisions to protect his family, to clean up his marriage.  He said yes to life.  Witnessing his transformation, I learned the power of this little word. Yes.  I learned that yes opens door and turns walls into bridges.  Yes has super powers.  No has endings. 


The truth is, I could have easily passed that call to my colleague. I could have not gone in to work that day, I could have not picked up the phone.  I could have done nothing and would have had nothing to offer you today on this topic of life lessons.  What I know from that call is that everything can change in a matter of minutes and all you have left is how you dealt with it.

So here is my challenge to you – what can you do differently in your life?  What can you do to make sure that the people around you, close friends and strangers alike feel warm in your presence?  What can you do to be here right now completely?  What is it worth to you to give up the worry and the guilt and enjoy this very moment?  And what do you need to say yes to?  A big resounding yes, a secret whispered yes?  What can you say yes to make the most of life’s opportunities and possibilities?  Because you never know when a life lesson is waiting for you. 

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