You Probably Can’t “Live Every Day Like It’s Your Last”, But Here’s What You CAN Do…
Basketball legend Kobe Bryant unexpectedly died in a helicopter crash on Sunday, January 26. Bryant’s 13-year old daughter Gianna, John Altobelli, 56, his daughter Alyssa Altobelli and wife Keri Altobelli along with Christina Mauser, Sarah Chester, her daughter Peyton, and the pilot Ara Zobayan, also perished in the crash.
The news struck like a power outage sapping the emotional light of a nation and plunging us into bewildering darkness. Shocked and saddened statements poured in from the “Black Mamba’s” fans and close friends.
There’s no words to express the pain Im going through with this tragedy of loosing my neice Gigi & my brother @kobebryant I love u and u will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW pic.twitter.com/pigHywq3c1
— SHAQ (@SHAQ) January 26, 2020
Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) January 26, 2020
— TIME (@TIME) January 27, 2020
In the wake of such a tragedy, many people reflect on the brevity and unpredictability of life. One of the most common refrains in times of grave loss is, “Live every day like it’s your last.”
By this people mean that we should cherish the gift of life, engage every day with enthusiasm, and show love to the people we care about most. We never know which day might be our last, so we should act as if we only had one day to live.
“Live every day like it’s your last,” makes sense on a certain level, but in reality no one can truly do this.
Practically speaking, we are not entering the car each day saying to ourselves, “This could be my last car ride.” We do not enter every staff meeting saying, “This could be the last staff meeting of my life.” We don’t go to the grocery store or stop for gas or do most of the mundane tasks of life consciously thinking that it might be our final day taking a breath.
The point is we will approach some parts of our lives with great intentionality and with far less consciousness of their importance. Being present in each moment as if it might be your last is mentally and emotionally exhausting, and most of us cannot or will not do it.
Of course, there are some of people who are more mindful than others. Perhaps those living with a terminal illness or people who have been surrounded by death or loss to an unusual degree. But the ability to maneuver life with a “this day might be my last” mentality is very difficult to do.
But there’s another way to get at the idea of living each day with abandon.
We should strive to order our priorities in such a way that our daily living is oriented around our values, and by doing that we can know we have spent our days well.
In times of greatest sorrow and loss we tend to think about the people and relationships that mean the most to us. We long to be near to the people we love and who love us back. We reminisce about the conversations, the laughter, the embraces, and the feelings shared much more than the money, work, possessions and other things that functionally fill our time.
In the months after 9/11, I remember intentionally spending more time with my college peers rather than using those limited moments of time to more studying. I knew I had responsibilities as a student, but in light of a catastrophic loss of life I decided that sacrificing a few points on a class assignment was worth the joy of spending more time with friends.
In a similar way, as we mourn Kobe’s death and those on board the helicopter with him, we have the opportunity to revisit our priorities and make sure we’re ordering them in a way consistent with our values.
For most of us, the highest priorities will include our religious commitments, quality time with family and friends, and some means of self-care. We know that relationships–spiritual, familial, social–are more important than the hours we spend in the office, the “To Do” list that keeps getting longer, or the number of “likes” we get on a social media post.
The challenge is actually living according to our stated priorities. Maybe a first step to practically re-ordering our lives according to our principles is to write down those priorities. Maybe it’s been a while since you’ve articulated what you think is most important in life. Now might be the time to do that.
Another way to prioritize the right things in our life is to take the initiative to build or strengthen a relationship. Maybe there is someone you haven’t called in a while. Maybe you need to tell someone “I love you” again. Perhaps you should write a letter to an old friend with whom you’ve lost touch.
Most of the time when we reach out to tell someone how important they are to us, the response is positive. They reciprocate with some gesture–a letter back, a laugh, a tear–that continues the dialogue and deepens the relationship.
We may not be able to literally live every day as if it is our last, but we can prioritize people and relationships so that we live each day with maximum meaning and minimum regret.