All my life, I was aware that I could die at any moment. I knew I was surrounded by death but never really understood the weight of that. When my grandfather died, I was sad but wasn't too disturbed. I was never close to him, and I was too young for it to considerably affect me.
But just recently, I heard that somebody died. He was the father of a person I saw every once in a while. I didn't talk to that person often, and I had never spoken to their dad, but for some reason, I was more unsettled by this than my grandfather's death. Just knowing I had seen this person smiling and laughing really bothered me because now, they didn't have a dad. It became impossible to imagine how they used to have fun with their friends or how they reacted to their father's death.
At first, I couldn't figure out why this was so distressing. But after some deliberation, I think I know why now.
It could've been me. I didn't want to think about how that person felt because I didn't know how I would feel if my father died.
As I said before, I'm usually quite aware of the fact that death lurks at every corner. But something about seeing it happen to a person I knew gave me a grim reminder. And being somewhat older than the first time I encountered death, I was able to take away a few lessons from that observation I made.
The first and most obvious thing that I realized was how important it is to appreciate my family. Lately, I've tried to remind myself how lucky I am to have a mother and father that love me. When I was stressed or didn't have enough time for myself to relax, I often lashed out at my family because they were the easiest ones to yell at.
However, the recent death made me realize how I took all the things in my life from my laptop to my parents as a guaranteed. I never paused to think about how any one of those could disappear in an instant.
After a fight, I always assumed my parents would be alive in time for me to apologize. However, I've thought about situations where something happens after I've snapped at them. I've thought about them dying before I can apologize or tell them how much I love them. I've thought about me standing there with the last, unspoken words of a goodbye hanging from my lips. It made me pretty sad.
We always think we have time. We always think we can spend a good amount of life with our parents before they die. But we aren't entitled to that. As unfair as it may seem, anything can happen at any time. So even though it's hard to constantly put myself in perspective and see the big picture, I've been trying to be more aware of that.
The second lesson I learned was to stop taking life for granted. I honestly don't have a problem with complaining. I do it a lot, and everyone is entitled to express their opinions about issues that affect them even if they don't do anything about it. However, I began to realize how much I complain about everything from my grades to my life and my surroundings.
It made me ask myself: If I were to die right here right now, would I be satisfied with my life?
I can't speak for everybody, but I knew my answer was no. The thought of me dying at that point in time was disturbing. I became aware of how much I wished to live and experience all that I could before I died. What I took away from that was to enjoy my life more. I wanted to live through all the good and ugly things life had to offer. That way, when I did meet my sudden end, I could smile and be at peace knowing that I did it all. I aspired to strive for a point in the future where my answer to that question could be yes.
Obviously, I can't experience everything in the world. Obviously, I will probably be a little sad when I die because it signifies the permanent end to my life. However, the best and most realistic thing I can do is just to be more thankful for it.
I think the key to appreciating life is enjoying what we have right now. It's a bit of a passive viewpoint, but I believe being grateful for what we have signifies true satisfaction. Along with this comes complaining. I still complain about my problems, but I don't see it as a bad thing. It inspires change and is an outlet for my emotions. What I've learned from appreciating life is not to stop complaining but to think of something that made me happy for every complaint I make.
So I guess that's why I'm writing this article. To give you a gentle reminder to appreciate life and your family. Because sometimes, we get lost in routine and forget to think about the future. You don't necessarily have to go bungee jumping off a cliff because #YOLO. But sometimes, just acknowledge that your life is the sole opportunity you'll get to experience your unique course of events. Appreciate the beauty in things that you might never get to see again.
It's hard, I know. Especially when I'm grumpy or preoccupied, I tend to overlook things or see the worst in them. But occasionally, just ask yourself: if I were to die right here, right now, would I be satisfied with my life?
I'll leave that for you to answer.