On this day, 6 years ago, my life as I knew it crumbled before my eyes and all my plans, hopes and dreams for the future evaporated in an instant. I had just spent a harrowing evening in the emergency department of our local hospital demanding answers to my husband’s rapidly deteriorating health. At this time, our future had been looking ripe with promise. I was 25 weeks pregnant with twins and during this period of time it seemed like serendipity was smiling on us in every area of our life. To the naked eye, Phil appeared to be in the best shape of his life; fit and healthy.
Yet as I returned to the hospital, bleary eyed after only a few hours of sleep to sit by my husband’s side as he waited for a CT scan of his brain, this could not have been further from the truth.
Shortly after his scan, a team of doctors entered to deliver some devastating news. There was a mass in the centre of Phil’s brain which was blocking the ventricles that normally allow cerebral fluid to drain. The buildup of fluid was putting pressure on his brain causing debilitating head pain as it pushed its way into the brain tissue. The mass was also putting pressure on the optic nerve which was causing issues with his sight and all of this trauma to his brain was also causing him to seize.
To make things worse, this news came just before a weekend, which left us in an awful state of limbo where we had no idea what was in store for us until further investigation could be done. We were due to spend that weekend completing our antenatal classes in preparation for the arrival of our boys. Deciding that there was no point in sitting around worrying and waiting for the weekend to end, we convinced the medical staff to grant Phil leave, after assuring them there would be a number of doctors on site in the event of an emergency. As hard as we tried to carry on with life as best as we could by distracting ourselves with learning to bath baby mannequins and fold and pin old school cloth nappies, it was difficult to avoid the proverbial elephant in the room. Was Phil even going to be here on this earth to witness the birth of his two sons? I still remember being a mess as I tried my best not to cry the entire time. The juxtaposition of life; through the pending arrival of our sons, and death; through Phil’s shocking news, was too much to handle.
The following week began with a visit from the neurosurgeon and his team. After walking us through the options, possibilities and potential treatment plans (depending on what was found), he pulled me aside to speak with me privately. At this point I didn’t think that I could be shocked or scared any more than I already had been over the past week, but nothing could prepare me for what he disclosed that day.
“If you had not taken your husband into A&E and insisted on getting answers, he would have slipped into an irreversible coma and you would have been burying him in three weeks.”
Clearly word had travelled that I had had to fight tooth and nail to advocate for my husband. I’m not sure if you’ve ever been delivered this kind of news in your life before, but I’m sure you’ll agree that as “what if’s” go, this was a pretty big one. If I hadn’t put my foot down that evening in A&E, we would have been sent home and, chances are, my husband would have never met his children, my in-laws would have had to endure the pain of burying their son, my children would have never known their dad and our journey as a couple and family would have ended in its opening chapters.
The night before his surgery we spent the evening walking the halls of the hospital ward. We knew the surgery was risky and had no idea what the following day would bring. We clung to faith and hope.
I knew the ward was full and the hallway traffic must have been busy, but to me, everyone and everything just melted away and we were the only ones in that ward that evening. As I recorded Phil singing Twinkle Twinkle to my oversized bump (as he had begun to do early in my pregnancy to calm them), I soaked up the experience of the present moment. I was fully grounded and present. Never before in my life had I experienced such clarity, but all of a sudden what mattered most in life became crystal clear.
It is not uncommon to see or hear reminders about the importance of living a life without regret. What I have noted, however, is that these cautionary tales tell of people gaining these moments of clarity as they face their own mortality, but seldom do we hear the perspective of those that surround them.
I cannot speak for exactly what Phil experienced that night, but I can honestly say that it has shaped where we are headed today. You may have heard me say before that tomorrow is never promised. It’s so easy to think, “Yes that is so true, but something like that would never happen to me.”
That’s what we thought too, and despite all the hardship at the time, I choose to be thankful for the many silver linings which stemmed from this period of time in our lives. Most importantly, Phil’s shock diagnosis and brush with death was a wake up call and one I feel compelled to share with you.
Our journey has a happy ending and we also have been further blessed with another child. Not everyone’s story ends so well, so if you have never taken the time to truly acknowledge how quickly your life could change, I’d encourage you to snap out of it.
We only get one chance to walk this earth. Once its spent, its gone.
In a podcast I listened to recently, life was likened to a toilet roll. The less that is left on the roll, the quicker it goes…Graphic, but en pointe.
So before it becomes too late, figure out what is really important to you. For instance, if you were told you only had eight years left to live, I believe that many things in life would suddenly cease to matter anymore. So imagine for a minute that your finances were covered. What would you do differently? How would you make those eight years count?
If you don’t currently live by a set of values, I’d encourage you to get some, then use them as a lens to evaluate your choices in life. Shatter that glass ceiling you have constructed and give yourself permission to dream again! A life spent grinding it out without any sense hope is not one worth living. Instead, find people in life who have the results and the lifestyle you are chasing and convince them to take you under their wing so you can learn from them.
Don’t wait to get your life in order. Focus on building your family and future generations a secure future now. As someone who faced the very frightening possibility of bringing twins into the world totally alone with no financial security, I encourage you to put a financial plan in place that gives your family peace of mind; the type of income which will provide not just for them but several generations to come.
Finally, live a life without regret. Do you understand the value of time as a currency in your life?
Perhaps this excerpt from Ed Mylett’s #MaxOut Your Life, will give you a fresh perspective:
“There are 86,400 seconds in a day. We each have the same 1440 minutes to spend however we choose. Each of these minutes are precious moments. Some moments will be memorable, some regretful, and too many of them will be wasted.
Time is measured by our birth and death. How we use those moments in between determine the quality of our lives. Hour by hour, minute by minute, these small units of time are too often filled with little things that really seem to matter at the time. Seeking small pleasures, avoiding minor discomforts, and pursuing trivial goals. We are too easily offended, and too consumed with the opinions of others. If we’re not careful, we simply begin to exist and not really live.
The average lifespan for a person is seventy-eight years. Of those years, twenty-eight will be spent sleeping, and seven of those sleeping years are spent lying awake at night with worry.
Factor in the average eleven years watching television or surfing the internet, ten and a half years working, four years driving, the years spent eating, getting dressed, and doing mundane tasks, and it leaves approximately eight years to live your life.”Ed Mylett
So what would you do with those eight years he speaks of if that was all you had left and what would knowing your expiry date do for your sense of urgency?
As Ed Mylett quite correctly pointed out:
“The challenge is we don’t know how many of these moments we actually get.”
So in the sunset of your life will you be filled with regrets?
Les Brown once made a comment in a podcast which made my blood run cold.
“The graveyard is the richest place on earth, because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, the cures that were never discovered, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step, keep with the problem, or determined to carry out their dream.”Les Brown
We all have a choice to make. Living a life without regrets is not an easy path. In fact you’ll know you are on the right path because it is uphill all the way! As Martin Luther King so eloquently put it:
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. “Martin Luther King Jnr.
I want to challenge you today to step up, level up and embrace your potential. Discover what you are truly capable of, claim it by chasing it every day and donate it to the rest of the world. I believe we are all here to make a contribution to this world, not an acquisition which detracts from it.
So what will your contribution be, how are you spending the currency of your time and what are you doing toward your legacy today? How will you live those precious eight years of your life? Time is ticking and the choice is yours; the pain of discipline or the pain of regret?