Jill and I went to a small dinner party last week. I sat next to Tina, a fascinating woman who has spent her career caring for terminal cancer patients. I learned so much sitting next to this remarkable woman. There’s much to learn about life from a woman who cares for people so close to death.
When I asked Tina the most important thing she’s learned, she humbly replied, “Three questions.”
And then Tina shared with the table something we will never forget. I certainly won’t.
I learned the three simple questions that are often asked by those close to death, and, define how we live. Was I loved? Did I love back? Did I make a contribution?
Not, did I make enough money? Did I live in a big enough house? Did I work enough hours at the office? Did my children get good enough grades? Did I make my sales quota? Did I earn enough degrees?
Did I…did I…did I?
I wonder if you and I will live, love and lead differently now knowing the final three questions we will most likely ask ourselves before we die?
During my freshman year of college at East Carolina University, I lived in 120 Garrett Dorm – or residence hall, as the college administration prefers to call them. Since I lived on the first floor near the handicap accessible entrance, there were two students in wheelchairs living on my floor. Chad, we learned, dove head first into three feet of shallow water. He broke his neck and became a quadriplegic. Steve, however, had a different story. Steve grew up on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. One day Steve and his buddies took his boat three miles off the coast. After a hot day fishing in the sun, they decided to go swimming. The ocean was hundreds of feet deep, so there was no concern diving head first. Except Steve didn’t know there was a giant sea turtle swimming underneath his boat. And when Steve dove head first into the ocean, his head rammed into the turtle’s shell, paralyzing him from the waist down. What are the chances?
Of the millions and millions of people that dive into the ocean, how many people collide with a sea turtle? “Why me”, must be the question Steve has asked himself a thousand times since his tragic accident. Why me?
We all have “why me” stories in our own lives. Why didn’t I get accepted to law school? Why did that former business partner betray me? Why does my weight fluctuate like a yoyo?
I wonder if you and I will live, love and lead differently knowing that most live a life more challenging than ours? I would gladly keep all my “why me’s” rather than unknowingly head-butt a giant sea turtle.
My daughter Caroline is a sixth grader. The other day she came home from school and shared that nearly every boy and girl in her class has their own iPhone. And “how come” she can’t get one. “How come?” I proudly told my daughter that her mother and I hope that she will become the last student in her class to get an iPhone. That did not go over well!
“How come?” How often do we ask ourselves this question? How come Martin drives a fancy sports car and I don’t? How come other Jersey Mike’s Subs shops are successful and my store is failing financially? How come it takes me fives time as long to read a book than other people?
How come…how come…how come?
I wonder if you and I will live, love and lead differently if we deleted those two words, “how come”, from our vocabulary? From our hearts. From our daily lives.
Whether you work with dying cancer patients, collide with a sea turtle or are the last person in your class to own an iPhone, the questions we ask ourselves are often the answers to who we become.
Was I loved? Did I love back? And did I make a contribution? Those three questions are far more important than the “why me” and “how come” questions that flood our minds and mouths daily.
Try changing the questions you ask yourself and you might wind up quite happy with the answers. The life you live will be much more satisfying and, more importantly, the legacy you leave behind will be far more profound.