I stared death in the face, and I was surprised at what I found there.
While the blood was pouring out of me, it was business as usual for the doctor and nurses—but I could feel my body and soul slipping away.
There was no music swelling in the background—no dramatic goodbyes—just fear and panic at my inability to slow down time.
I wanted to yell at everyone that this was an emergency and I was dying!
But I could not move my lips or speak.
I knew if I closed my eyes it would be for the last time…so I forced them to stay open as long as I could.
All my body could do was listen to the sounds around me, while my mind raced in hyper-speed, playing back to me all the events of my life and showing me every person I have ever known and loved.
And I discovered something that those of us who have faced death understand—that there are difficult and painful questions everyone will ask themselves as they prepare for their last moment.
What have I done with my time? What did I do everyday? Was it worthwhile? Did it fulfill me? Did I enjoy waking up to face a new day? The answers to this question shocked me—I realized I spent a lot of time doing things I did not enjoy, nor was I pursuing anything that I loved. What I love, I should give my time to. If I don’t love something, I can find a way to love it or move on. Time is precious…I never felt that so acutely as when the seconds were slipping through my fingers. Time is gone eventually, and what and who we have spent our time with will ultimately be what defines us.
Does everyone I love truly know that I love them? Do the ones I love know how important they are to me? The people in my life who have forever changed me…do they understand this? Do they know? Do my children know how important they are to me, and will they remember and know that I will always love them, so much that I have faced death for them? Have I told them? Have I shown them? It’s amazing how the people who affect your life forever are the ones who show up in your memory at the moment when you are leaving—and I found that there were people in my life whom I had unfinished business with…people I would be sad to leave behind without them ever knowing how much they meant to me. We should tell the ones we love everyday through our words, but most importantly our actions, how much we truly care. They should not wonder when we leave how important they were to us and how much they truly affected our life. Everyone wants to be remembered and loved.
Have I lived a life that was true to who I am? What will be said of me at my funeral? Would it surprise me? What stories will be shared of me? It is true to who I am now? We all want to be thought of and remembered for good—is that how others will see us? Did I do something that impacted someone or touched them? Did my actions line up with my words? Was I honest and caring and true to myself? Did I live a life that was authentically me? Will I be missed or will others be glad I am gone? Did I love myself?
If I could survive this, what would I do differently? If I could have one more chance to make things right, what would I do? If I could have a second chance and start over, where would I begin? If I could make right the regrets that were eating away at my spirit, what would my life look like? For there were parts of myself that I kept hidden as I was putting on a show for other people, trying to keep them happy and living the life of a martyr. I was slowly dying inside my soul everyday. I knew that if I could live, I would break free and do what scares me, for I would know that it means I’m alive. I would enjoy my food and inhale the fresh air. I would spend every chance I could with those I love and at the ocean, my home. I would read one more story and sing one more song. I would love with every fiber of my being and truly let go in the moments where surrender is the only way to be. I would laugh when something is funny and cry when I hurt. I would listen to people’s stories and let others know when I understand them. I would love and be loved so much that it hurt, and then I would love more. I would break free and be myself.
I was lucky—for I received my second chance that day.
And I learned that the questions I asked myself in that final terrifying moment are questions I should be asking myself every new day. For in every moment, we are all dying to live.
Author: Stephanie Parry
Image: Flickr/Valentina Costi
Editors: Yoli Ramazzina; Emily Bartran