Friday, October 19, 2007

The Ultimate Test

You wouldn’t know it from reading People magazine, but the value of our lives probably won’t end up being measured by how much money we made or how well-known we were. A few generations down the road, it’s likely no one will remember what we accomplished. (If you don’t believe me, ask a group of junior high school students who Paul Newman is.)

Keeping this in mind, the best way I know to get your priorities straight when faced with a major life decision is to ask yourself how you would feel on your deathbed if you'd actually done whatever it is you're contemplating doing. The beauty of the “deathbed test” is that it not only encourages you to listen to your heart and follow its path, but also to consider the footprints you’re leaving behind.

I’m reminded of my parents’ neighbor Larry, who was bedridden for over a decade with multiple sclerosis. Presuming he hadn’t had much contact with anyone, I expected a light turnout at his funeral. But when I got to the church, I found a policeman directing traffic and the sanctuary filled. A standing-room only crowd.

After the minister delivered his eulogy, Larry's wife opened the floor to anyone who wanted to speak. I was worried that no one would respond, but more than a dozen people stood up and described how this man, without leaving his bed, had touched their lives.

It turns out that quietly, with no fanfare, people had been reading to Larry, doing his laundry, and taking care of his most basic needs. My family never noticed all the angels entering and leaving the house next door. We had no idea that Larry was loved by so many. Listening to the stories, I was in tears. Larry couldn’t even wash himself. Yet according to those who spoke, he never lost his sense of humor, never let his situation get the best of him.

There is no right or wrong answer to the deathbed test. It’s one of the most personal questions there is. But whatever you decide to do with your life, remember the Larrys of this world and take heart that no matter what your circumstances, you can still make a difference.

Note: The multimedia digital art at the top of this posting is by Aluna Joy. Visit her site at

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