Looking Back from Death’s Door

Human life is a truly short affair. It is better to live doing the things that you like. … Personally, I like to sleep. And I intend to appropriately confine myself more and more to my living quarters and pass my life away sleeping.


A few years ago, I watched my grandfather slowly die over the course of a couple of years in a nursing home…basically alone. He cried whenever we came to visit. Not tears of joy or even sadness, but tears of regret. At the eleventh hour, a man who never seemed to understand the meaning of life, finally seemed to get it. And he understood that he missed out on so much.

My grandfather never made a big effort to be close to us. So I wasn’t personally sad for me or for my loss. But it was incredibly sad to see anyone so disappointed with their choices in life. And worse to see a person at that age physically unable to do anything about it, except cry.

It got me thinking about how I want to feel, when I am knocking on death’s door. I want to look back at my life and I say this with conviction:

There is not a single person that I wished I had a better relationship with, because I worked hard to make them all better. There is no career that I wished I spent my life working in, because I worked in what I consider my dream field. There is no part of the world I wished I had visited, because I saw them all.

There isn’t a food I’d always wanted to try that I never tried. No car I always wanted to drive that I never drove. No musician who I always wanted to see live who I didn’t see, before the time came when no one could see them live anymore.

Nothing in my life was missed. There was no opportunity I didn’t seize when I had the chance. No passion I didn’t pursue with absolute vigor. There was no itch that I didn’t scratch.

There was no vice stronger than my will to do great things in this world. Nothing that ever had a hold on me enough to make me forget the values that make me who I am.

There was no moment that my kids experienced that I wished I got the chance to see. No heartfelt conversation I always wished I had with my wife to stop a small issue from becoming a large one. There was never a friend in pain that felt alone, because I wasn’t there for them.

There was no unwritten book. No unfinished opus. There was no thing that I always envisioned myself doing or always really wanted to do, that I didn’t complete. And complete well.

There was not one instance of inaction due to fear or insecurity or laziness.

But this is not to say there weren’t rough patches. Yes there are some painful memories. But those are looked back upon fondly, of as times of great learning. Times of self discovery. And there was no winter that didn’t make me appreciate my great, long summers.

And of course, there were inevitably opportunities I didn’t seize, or couldn’t seize. And things I didn’t do, or couldn’t do. So some moments were missed. But I learned from the opportunities I did miss, and I seized the next one. The moments I missed with my kids or wife or family, I made up for it by being there for the next one. The one after that. And the one after that.

This is the life I lived. Free to do what I chose. Free to be with who I wanted to be with. Free to work where I wanted to work. Now free of regret.

My mind is at peace because there is nothing left to pursue. And even though my body can no longer do it, I’ve already done it. I did it all.

All these people in this retirement home have these burned-in curved mouths in the shape of a frown. My mouth is permanently curved too…but just in the opposite direction. Knowing that I beat this world. By doing everything I ever wanted to do. The way I wanted to do it.