Sometime this year, I watched a YouTube video by asapSCIENCE where they tested a theory that two strangers could fall in love after asking each other a series of 36 questions.
Of the 36 questions, there was one that I just couldn’t get out of my head:
If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living?
This is a powerful and thought-provoking question because the truth is you COULD suddenly die one year from today. You could suddenly die tomorrow. You could suddenly die 5 minutes from now.
We aren’t promised more time to do the things we want to do in life.
When you think about this question, it really puts into perspective how you’re spending the only time you DO have (this moment right now), and whether you’re spending that time meaningfully and tribute-worthy.
That may sound a bit morbid – perhaps even “too soon” in light of recent events- but that’s why it’s such an important question to consider. With the crazy, messed up world we live in today, it seems that nowhere and no one is safe.
I actually started writing this article 5 months ago when I was reading about each of the victims of the Manchester bombing outside of the Ariana Grande concert on May 22nd, 2017. The names of all of the victims who were killed had just been released, and I was crying as I read each of the stories about why they were there that night and who they were with.
There was an 8-year-old girl killed who was there with her mother and grandmother. The mother was in a coma and still didn’t know her daughter was dead (this was 4 days later that I was reading the stories), and the grandmother was in critical condition.
There was a 30-something woman who threw herself in front of her young niece to shield her from the bomb (the niece broke both legs but survived thanks to her aunt sacrificing her own life to save hers).
Half of those killed were teenagers and young adults who had their whole lives ahead of them.
All of these people were just looking to have a fun night listening to a singer they adored, and not a single one of them suspected it would be their last day alive.
The stories that pained me the most though were the ones of the parents who had just arrived to pick up their kids and were waiting in the area where the bomb went off.
The reason those deaths shook me the deepest is because they were essentially just out running an errand. Twenty minutes earlier they were safely at home, then they “ran out” to pick up their kids and never returned.
One woman who died was accompanying a friend to pick up her friend’s daughter, it wasn’t even her errand, she was just being a good friend and enjoying the company.
Another teenage girl who lost her life didn’t even attend the concert, she just rode with her mom to pick up her younger sister and it cost her her life.
Now, five months later, Americans are still grieving and reeling from the Las Vegas Massacre at the Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festival three weeks ago that left 59 dead and 546 injured.
man – scratch that, one terrorist – opened fire on a crowd of 22,000 people with automatic guns, making this the most deadly mass shooting in U.S. history.
22,000 people who wanted to make fun and happy memories with their friends and family, now have to remember the terror they witnessed that day for the rest of their lives instead.
What happened to these people was a monstrosity. People losing their lives to a senseless act carried out by another human being is always the hardest to accept and comprehend. We all want to see the good in people, to believe in human decency, and that even the most troubled people have some sense of morality and appreciation for human life. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case.
Having said that, one terrorist’s disregard doesn’t cancel out all of the good, loving, and selfless acts that followed. Even during the chaos, fear, and panic, people were jumping in to help others and save the lives of complete strangers.
There were people running towards the line of fire instead of away from it to aid the injured, people throwing themselves in front of loved ones so they wouldn’t get hit, and people who refused to leave anyone behind. There were even people who were safely in their hotel room when the gunfire started and ran towards it without a second-thought to help people escape.
It’s the stories of the heroes who sprang into action to help, the people who sacrificed their own life to save someone else’s, and the heartfelt tributes of the victims that brings light to these incredibly dark times.
But we don’t need to wait for an act of terrorism or horrific disaster to live a heroic, inspiring, or tribute-worthy life.
No one wakes up in the morning thinking (or knowing) it’s the last day of their life. But at least by acknowledging that it could be, we can live it intentionally, meaningfully, and full of compassion.
We could remind our loved ones how much they mean to us, give strangers compliments, reject the things and people trying to tear us down, let go of negativity, and leave behind something inspiring and impactful – something that will become your legacy and what you’ll always be remembered for.
At some point, we’re all going to die. It’s the one thing we all have in common. People don’t like to think about it or talk about, but there’s no avoiding it.
So why not do everything you can – RIGHT NOW – to make the world a little kinder, a little brighter, a little more beautiful, and a little less angry and hateful.
After I watched that YouTube video and considered my own answer to the question, I wrote a sticky note that is still by my bedside today. It’s a different rendition of the same question but reflects how I define my “purpose”. I read it first thing every morning and spend a couple of minutes reflecting on it before getting out of bed to take on the day.
I’m going to leave you with the question my sticky note asks:
If today is your last day alive, how can you spend it positively, meaningfully, and with the greatest impact?