You might recall the 1960s TV show called “Run for Your Life,” starring Ben Gazzara, who plays lawyer Paul Bryan. When his doctor tells him he will die in nine months, Paul Bryan decides to do all the thrilling (and dangerous) things he always wanted to do but never had time for.
What would you do if your doctor told you that you only had nine months to live? Would you, like the TV character Paul Bryan, spend your time skydiving, traveling to exotic lands, eating expensive foods, and enjoying as much alcohol as possible? Or would you spend your time in prayer, preparing for the next life to come?
There’s nothing wrong with thinking about death. In fact, if anything, we should think about death more often. It helps to remind us that this life is not all there is. But while you’re still here living the rest of your life, listen to these inspirational words by Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children…to leave the world a better place…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
What great advice. These are words I would like to live by. “To laugh often and much…” Someone once wrote, “Take a 10- to 30-minute walk every day, and while you walk, smile.” Life is too short to waste it worrying or fretting. Your time is too precious to spend it in anger, guilt, or agitation.
“But Judd,” you might say, “it’s hard to laugh and be happy when I’m having issues with my health,” or “I take care of my sick father and my sick husband — I have no time to enjoy life and be happy.” Actually, you have the exact amount of time as everybody else. It’s up to you to make time for yourself and ask God to “turn your mourning into dancing.” (Psalm 30:11-12)
“Say what?” It’s all about perception (e.g., glass half-empty or glass half-full). “Trade your expectation for appreciation and the world changes instantly,” says motivational speaker and life coach Tony Robbins. “The miracle of gratitude is that it shifts your perception to such an extent that it changes the world you see.” — Dr. Robert Holden
If you’re having trouble feeling “thankful” this Thanksgiving holiday, TV host and emerging spiritual leader Oprah Winfrey urges her viewers to keep a “gratitude journal.” She shares, “No gesture is too small when done with gratitude.” If you want to feel happy, try on an attitude of gratitude for a change in your mood, your outlook, and yourself.
Stop and think of as many things as you can that you’re thankful for right now and jot them down. Give it a try — count your blessings. You can start with the people you love and cherish, the opportunities you are afforded in life, and the gifts you’ve been given. After you start listing things you’re thankful for, your mood should start to change for the better.
All life coaches and “new age” gurus will agree that the more you recognize and express gratitude for the things you have, the more things you will have to express gratitude for. Meister Eckhart, a 13th-century mystic, wrote, “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”
I can guarantee that having an attitude of gratitude is good for us because the Bible tells us so: **“Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2); “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Mrs. Matsunaga and I recently saw the Donny and Marie Osmond show in Las Vegas. During the show, Donny said something quite unexpected, yet very profound. He shared that he was close friends with Michael Jackson, and that prior to his death, Michael had called him just to talk.
Michael was troubled by the way the media was attacking him, calling him “Wacko Jacko.” But after his death, the world poured out its love for him with innumerable tributes. “It’s such a shame,” Donny said, “that the world didn’t show Michael the love they had for him while he was still here with us.”
Donny addressed the audience, “Maybe you need to tell someone just how much you love them. Maybe you need to tell someone how much you appreciate them. Perhaps you need to tell someone you’re sorry. It’s so important, don’t just assume they know. Do it now while you still have the time.”
When was the last time you told your spouse how much you love them? Or told your mom or dad how much you appreciate them? Or told your children how proud you are of them? There’s nothing like a conscious awareness of your limited time left here on this earth to help get your priorities straight and help you focus on what’s most important.
Here’s something I came across that might help. The official Social Security website posts life expectancy tables from the Office of the Chief Actuary. I found my age, i.e., 55, and found my life expectancy is another 25.21 years (28.60 for a female at the same age). If you’re 75, your life expectancy is 10.87 more years for a male and 12.79 more years for a female.
Let’s say you are a 90-year-old male. The tables show that your life expectancy is an additional 4.02 years (4.85 for a female). Now, I realize that some 90-year-olds will outlive their life expectancy and others will not. But, on average, if you multiply 4.02 years times 52 weeks, you have about 209 more weeks to live.
Now, here’s where it gets interesting. Go to a toy store and buy 209 marbles (you may have to go to more than one store). Place the marbles in a large, clear plastic (or glass) container and keep the container in a highly visible spot. These marbles represent the remaining weeks of your life.
Every Sunday, remove one marbles out of the container and throw it away. You will notice that by watching the marbles diminish, you will focus more on the really important things in life, such as “laughing often and much and winning the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children.”
Hopefully, if you live long enough, one day you will remove the very last marble out of the container. You have been given a little extra time. I hope you use it wisely, i.e., “... to leave the world a better place … to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.”
Judd Matsunaga, Esq., is the founding partner of the Law Offices of Matsunaga & Associates, specializing in estate/Medi-Cal planning, probate, personal injury and real estate law. With offices in Torrance, Hollywood, Sherman Oaks, Pasadena and Fountain Valley, he can be reached at (800) 411-0546. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.