There are so many things I want to write about right now. I have a long list of recent experiences to share, not to mention wanting to get back to things related to my time in. But, sometimes, life gets in the way. We wish life was all sunshine and roses, but, unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
Last December, my family lost our grandfather on my mom’s side. He was a gruff man who built his legacy on a tow yard. I wrote about the experience here. Now, it looks like we may be losing my grandmother, “Nana,” too. Nana has spent more time in the hospital than out of it since my grandfather’s death, and just recently everything has gone downhill. Presently doctors are trying to keep her comfortable at a hospital in Ohio. We’re not sure how much more time she has to live.
Upon hearing the news last night, my brother Derek, who is himself a talented writer, sat down and penned (with a few minor edits) the following thoughts:
On Death and Living Life to the Fullest
By Derek Cyphers
Whatever happened to passing peacefully in one’s sleep? Is one of the few drawbacks to advancements in medicine that we can now prolong life further than it was meant to, ultimately leading to more suffering over time? At least for our family, this has probably been the hardest part. My first exposure to this came with our, who fought cancer bravely, and painfully, for nine years before finally succumbing in 2003. More recently, it was our grandfather on our mom’s side, who was a shell of his true self due to mental and physical decline by the time he passed this last December.
Now our grandmother on the same side, affectionately called “Nana,” is in the hospital, and things are looking as bleak as ever. She’s a tough lady—a feisty,, salt-of-the-earth Midwesterner—who is simultaneously one of the crassest and yet sweetest people you could ever meet. She has overcome health scares before, thanks to great doctors and her fighting spirit, but those incidents have taken their toll on her and our family. Death is never far from our minds, and yet, as integral as it is in our daily lives, we still struggle mightily to cope with it.
Undoubtedly, death is a facet of life that every person on Earth must confront at one point or another. In the end, we all get our chance to live our lives and then must fade away to allow those behind us to live theirs. To me, this brings specific emphasis to not the question of how we deal with death, but how we live!
What we do with the time we are given is of the utmost importance. Future generations inherit the fruits of our labor, whether positive or negative. Rob Bell, a favorite pastoral and spiritual influence of mine, dedicated an entire series of sermons to “Mastering the ” several years ago. Rob presents as a master of the “art of living” and explains how we can apply those same principles to our own lives—things like being “fully present” and living in a “rhythm.” Rob’s series approaches living life from a micro level. But what about the macro level? How do we approach life as a whole to get the most out of it?
Everyone’s path in life is different, but my set of circumstances and experiences has led me to develop, over the course of college and my first few years in the “real world,” the following general list of life priorities (in ascending order):
- Henry Ford who transformed transportation and business or a parent who loves unconditionally and works tirelessly to provide for your family—all roles are important. – What better way to leave the world a better place, to truly make a difference, than to achieve great things and provide future generations with the fruits of your labor and a positive example? History is full of examples of those who, by their incredible passion and hard work, have enriched the lives of those who have come after. There is no scale needed to define this: Whether you are
- Experiences – Achievements are the most likely way to positively influence the future, but they require a balance. If your achievements come at the expense of living your own life, have you really lived a full, ? It is entirely possible to spend your entire life improving the world without ever experiencing it for yourself. If this is the case, have you really profited the word? Or have you instead enriched future generations at the expense of your own? For this reason, I see experiences as a critical component of living a productive life: See the world, try new things, learn as much as possible. Take time to do what your heart desires!
- People – No great achievements or experiences are likely to mean much in the twilight of our lives if we did not get to do those things for, or with, the people we love. Perhaps more than in any other area, our biggest impact on the world comes in our interactions with people. A trip of a lifetime with a best friend could mean so much more than the same trip alone. Achieving a seemingly impossible goal with the help of a great team could be far more enriching than doing it alone. To be sure, there will always be an important place in life for solitude—just see Jesus for an example—but, ultimately, I can think of no greater travesty than to achieve great things and experience the world but have no one to share it with.
I don’t know what will happen with my dear Nana in the near future. I do know, though, that she’s managed nearly 85 years on this planet and made a tremendous impact on my parents and us grandkids. She also helped our grandfather run a successful business that provided other families with a living for more than 50 years. To me, that means she’s done a pretty darn good job with this life.
But my hope is that, every time we are forced to face the reality of death in this imperfect world, it will remind us of our opportunity to live our lives to the fullest. In this way, when we are knocking on Heaven’s door, we can know that we did our best to make the most of the time God gave us and that those left behind will be better off because of our efforts.
Thank you, Derek. You rock.
For more on life’s unique path, check out this interview with Scott Harrison, who went from party guru to founder of Charity:Water, an organization that helps developing nations get safe drinking water.
P.S. John Zande, it’s okay. I don’t expect you to like this. Still friends?
- the end of an era (jesscy.com)
- success, or something like it (jesscy.com)
- Rob Bell’s ‘Ginormous’ Mirror (christianitytoday.com)