For decades, I had 2 dreams over and over, almost every night. In the first dream, I was a passenger in a silver car that slid out of control across 4 lanes of northbound I-71 and into the oncoming cars of the southbound lanes. My spirit floated above the highway looking down on my dead, broken, and bloodied body. I avoided riding in silver cars for years. The second dream found me dying. Whether my death was caused by some malady or was an accident really didn't matter. It wasn't important. But the message was always the same: I would die in my 50s.
My 40s were not exactly what I would call the best years of my life. Even so, I was not looking forward to leaving them for my 50th birthday. As each subsequent year arrived, I would wonder, will it be this year? Will it hurt? Dear God, please don't let me die alone.
If I make it until July 19th, I will turn 60 years old. I have no reason now to believe that I won't get there. I have some health issues, but nothing fatal. I stopped having the 2 dreams about 4 years ago. When I hit my 60th year, I will be 3 years older than my sister when she died. Judy was quite a complicated woman. She had a terrible temper that would ignite without warning, yet she oozed kindness from every pore, and I loved her dearly. I miss her every minute, every day. When she was sick (she had hepatitis C and myelodysplastic syndrome), she would never let her family tell us when it was really bad and she was in the hospital. She could be near death and we usually wouldn't know. She said that we had our hands full taking care of our mom (who had Alzheimer's and kidney failure) and she didn't want us worrying about her, too. We worried anyway. At the time her army of doctors told her that she could die, she told them that she would leave this life when she was good and ready and not a moment before. She lived several more years after that.
My sister wanted to live. Life was meaningful to her. She lived every day as if it were her last. Not because she actually was dying, but because she wanted to do and see everything, to be a part of the lives of her family and friends. I've said many times that she taught me how to die but, most of all, she taught me how to live. That's a lesson I didn't realize I had learned until the last few days.
I've spent most of my life being seriously depressed, doing what others wanted me to do, going through the motions. I've breathed the same stale air over and over, done the same things again and again and still expected different results. Life doesn't work that way. You either give it all you've got or you go on as you always have and stay stuck in the same darkness that you've always been in.
The video at the beginning of this post is from the movie "Rent" which was a very successful Broadway musical before being made into a film. The lyrics and music were written by Jonathan Larson. The night before the first preview of "Rent", he died. He was only 35 years old. But in those 35 years, he lived--LIVED--enough for all of us. He didn't get to see what a great success that "Rent" came to be, but he died knowing that he had created something lasting and something wonderful. He died having followed his dream and not sitting on his hands with a blank look on his face. He knew that he shouldn't and wouldn't waste a single one of his 525 thousand 6 hundred minutes.
I've wasted a lot of mine and I haven't had a year in my life worth measuring. That changes here, that changes now. My sister gave me a wonderful gift in showing me how to live. It took me a while to get it, but "get it" I do. This birthday year--and forevermore--will be a year to measure. I'm going to be silly more. Play the piano more often. Write like I've got a million dollar book contract. Dance every day. Sing like I don't care who hears. Say "yes" more. Say "no" more. Lose 40 more pounds and start dressing like the bohemian that I am. I might write a play. Learn the dulcimer Ginger gave me. Study my Bible more. Trust religion less. Pray without ceasing. Eat cake "just because." Write my own fabulous funeral. Hug more often. Tell family and friends how much I love them. This and more is how I will measure my 525 thousand 6 hundred minutes.
How will you measure yours?