By Samantha Healy
What does it mean to live like you’re dying? I think this saying is meant to be inspirational, but in a specific way: it provides me with momentum to commit some type of action I’m unsure about. I’m going to die one day, I could die at any moment, so morality be damned, I need to do whatever I want, I need to act with urgency,
I can leave nothing unfinished.
The problem is, any time I’ve tried to live by this popular saying, I’ve been left unsatisfied. Something wasn’t right. Trying to live like I’m dying, like I have limited time on the earth and need to cram in the things I haven’t done, somehow made me more fearful of death.
It sacrificed my peace. It was unsettling. It made me think – is this wrong? Why is this wrong?
Today’s first reading punched me in the gut. It begins, “Thus says the Lord: You say, ‘The Lord’s way is not fair!’”
This verse calls me out. I probably say this at least once a day; I tell God His way is not fair. I spent my summer serving the homeless and found it easy to pray consistently and be close to God in that setting. Since returning to college and beginning my senior year, I’ve felt lost and overwhelmed. I’ve been struggling in my relationship with God. In the college culture, stress is abundant and partying is always an option for instant relief. Keeping my priorities straight and choosing faith over temptation feels like such hard work. I am constantly saying – Lord, You’re asking too much of me. I can’t do it. I’m busy, I’m tired, and I just don’t have that much to give. You don’t seem to ask these things of other people, and my faith feels like a burden, Lord, a heavy burden, and it’s too much,
Your way is not fair.
As the reading continues, the Lord challenges me on this idea. “Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?” He explains to me that when I choose sin, I choose death. If I want to choose earthly pleasures, temporary things, I can, I have the freedom to do so, but as a result, I will live a temporary life. If I choose to turn away from sin by sacrificing these worldly comforts and desires, the Lord tells me I shall not die.
Does it make sense that I feel burdened? How can I merge my desires to live in service to love, truth, and goodness, with my desires to be young, reckless, and spontaneous?
This is my draft of an answer; this is what I’ve come up with so far. First, to reiterate: the first reading says that sin leads to death while righteousness leads to eternal life.
I say: I want to live like I’m dying.
If I merge the two, if I reconsider the cliché, if I apply the first reading’s message to the popular saying, I can interpret it differently. I can give it new meaning. I want to live like I’m dying. When I say it this time, I’m saying I want to live as if I have limited time on this Earth, but not in a reckless way, not in a way that demands rash actions, I’m saying I want to live so that I’m ready to die at any moment. I want to treat others well, live in service to them, and love with my entire heart.
I don’t want to waste my time on things that are not worthwhile, I want to do my best to be fully alive in this life. If I’m dying, I don’t have time for things that don’t contribute to the highest good, to a better world. In this context, living like I’m dying means going deep, staying still, being grateful, taking my time, and making good choices.
I have to tell you what happened when I started living in this way.
I was alone, I was driving in the mountains, I had no cell service, and it was pouring rain. Then it was raining so hard I couldn't see anymore, not at all, not one bit. I could no longer see the cars ahead or behind me; I couldn't see well enough to pull over. But one of my favorite songs was playing, and suddenly the sky opened up and the sun was immediately in front of me, blindingly bright, but it was still pouring like mad, and I was driving uphill, and it was just so gorgeous and brilliant and breathtaking that I could only be scared for a moment before I thought – goodness, this must be my path to Heaven. This is how I’ll get there. I thought I would surely die right there and I was so at peace with it. I didn't desire to die, I promise I didn't, but I was not in control, so I just said – okay Lord, if it's my time, I've always been Yours and always will be.
Spoiler: I didn’t die.
But I haven’t forgotten this moment. It revealed to me that I'm living right, I'm tending to my soul, I could leave this Earth at any moment and be happy, be at peace with my choices and my treatment of the people around me. I don’t want to die unprepared and covered in my sins, surrounded by regrets. So I’ll live like I’m dying because there could be a next time, and it might look different, or maybe I’ll find myself in the same place, driving alone in the mountains in the pouring rain, and the sky will open up in a glorious way, and maybe this next time will really be my time. And if that were to happen, I want to feel peace, as I did the first time. It was like I had a trial run. I want to feel ready, not in a morbid way, but with respect to how I, as a Christian, am called to live: with righteousness, and in anticipation of eternity in Paradise. That is living like you’re dying.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Samantha Healy lives in Northern Virginia where she is finishing up her bachelor’s degree in Economics. She lacks a sense of smell, is a barefoot runner, and values nothing over her relationship with God. She doesn’t know what she’s going to do with her life, but she writes about stuff at samanthaland.club.