To Live Like You Were Dying

It was a sobering moment last week when a client told me about the sudden death of his CFO. She had been diagnosed with cancer two years ago and had ostensibly undergone treatment, after which she declared to her boss and family that the cancer was gone – but it wasn’t. She had reacted negatively to the treatment and decided for herself that she would not fight it. She didn’t even tell her grown son that she was dying.

In the meantime, however, she lived a full life. In hindsight, my client says he should have known something was off given she took vacations frequently, always flying first class and staying at the best hotels, and not sparing any expense on her daily life.  What was going on inside her heart and soul we’ll never know, but it’s striking to note the way she lived. She clearly wasn’t worried about money or what people thought of her, two things which I personally would love to be completely free of.

Since I grew up in Texas, country music takes up a reasonable portion of my iTunes library. Hearing this story last week I was reminded immediately of a popular country song from the last decade –  “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw.

The song tells the story of a man in his early 40s receiving the diagnosis of a terminal illness, and asks the man what he did after learning “this might really be the real end”. His reply? He went sky-diving, climbed a mountain and rode a bull in a rodeo. And aside from the fun and excitement, he “…loved deeper, spoke sweeter and gave forgiveness…”

I’m not sure I can say what my reaction would be to learning my time was getting cut short. I fear that at least my initial reaction might be to dive into self pity and anger, as opposed to diving out of a plane.

But time is ticking for us all with or without a terminal diagnosis report.

Yesterday I was fortunate to be able to coach a young man on taking responsibility for what he wants in life. He himself said that he needed to make a big move, in spite of fears which have been holding him back, while he is still young and has the time. Today, I’m sending him a copy of Tim McGraw’s song.

The song ends with the line “I hope some day you get the chance to live like you were dying.” We’ve got the chance, we just need to take it.

You can watch the official music video to the song here.





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