Walking by Faith Alone

Live like you were dying

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While on the exercise bike at physical therapy, an older man, somewhere in his late 80s, climbed on the bike beside me and jokingly said, “Race you to the top!”

I smiled at his humor. The television in front of us showed a Tim McGraw video of the song, “Live Like You Were Dying.” He pointed to the screen and with a wink whispered, “That’s my song!”

I laughed to myself, “Such a cute old man!” I hadn’t listen to the words really, although I’ve heard it before. The man began to sing aloud the lyrics. He turned his face toward me, “That song happened to me.”

He began to quote the words, “I was in my early forties with a lot of life before me and a moment came that stopped me on a dime.”

My legs began to slow a bit as I listened to his voice. “I spent most of the next days, looking at x-rays, talkin’ about the options and talkin’ about sweet time.”

He paused for a moment to observe my expression. I wasn’t sure where he was going with all this.

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, what would you do?”

“What would you do?” I asked. He smiled pleased that I was grasping his story.

I went skydiving. I went Rocky Mountain climbing. I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu. And I loved deeper, and I spoke sweeter, and I gave forgiveness I’d been denying. And he said, ‘Someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying.

I was finally the husband that most of the time I wasn’t. And I became a friend a friend would like to have. And all of a sudden going fishin’ wasn’t such an imposition. And I went three times that year I lost my dad. I finally read the Good Book, and I
took a good, long, hard look at what I’d do if I could do it all again.”

“So, you were living like you were dying,” I clarified.

He nodded, “Like tomorrow was a gift and you’ve got eternity to think about. What you’d do with it? What could you do with it?
What did I do with it? What would I do with it?”

He ended his lyrical explanation by singing the chorus. Ironically, it was right in step with Tim McCraw on the television.

“I never listened to those words before,” I admitted.

“Now that you’ve heard them, what?” he asked.

“But you didn’t die, right?” I confirmed in a ridiculously gullible way.

“Not yet,” he smiled. “But since I was diagnosed with cancer over 40 years ago and survived, I’ve lived every day as if I were dying. Because we never know.”

My bike signaled I was finished. He patted my arm and winked, “Don’t waste a minute, sweet lady.”

I couldn’t stop thinking of his words or his sweet smile. I couldn’t stop thinking of the lyrics to a song I’ve heard a hundred times and never paid attention to the meaning. I wondered if that is how I am living my life, unaware of the meaning around me. When I got home, my daughter asked me if I’d watch her ride her horse. She can drive herself. It’s not like she really needed me. I was so behind on my writing schedule and have two edits due…

“Let me get my boots,” I whispered. “You think I could ride with you today?”

She smiled.

I smiled, too.

Live Like You Were Dying…”

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

November 21, 2012 at 3:01 pm

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