It’s easy to upvote a carpe diem quote, but when was the last time you looked at a picture of a 6 year old girl on a tombstone smaller than all the rest? Have you counted the number of companion plots in a graveyard half empty? Have you thought about the people out there who spent 60+ years holding one person’s hand, and now they can’t?
I’m not trying to depress you, but I want you to benefit from the same experience I had when I visited a graveyard. There’s a lot of visceral emotion there. It can teach you so much about the time you have left.
Walk among the graves and think about the life each person lived.
- How many moments with loved ones did they cherish? How much did they choose work instead?
- How many of their grudges or fears or worries or procrastinations were worth it?
- Did their choices reflect their hopes or their fears?
- Did their choices reflect what they wanted or what they assumed others wanted?
- How many of their dreams never happened because they were building someone else’s?
- How many true things never got said because they didn’t want to hurt someone? How much time did that waste?
- How many times did they ask for what they needed? Or did they just wait quietly for someone to care?
- How many would go back and take that chance or that trip or take that day off if they could go back just to change one day?
It was very emotional for me to sit amidst several hundred graves. Every single tombstone represented a universe of fears and worries, joys and happy memories, dreams that never came true, and never quite enough moments with loved ones. Every single one had their own story. And now those stories were over.
Sitting there on the bench my problems felt so small, like I was focusing on the wrong things. In a very real way I could hear what all of these deceased would be telling me. Barbara was married for 60 years before her husband died and would tell me that yes love hurts but it’s worth it. Roy died at 19 and would encourage me on my worst days that I was still here, I still had time to find joy. Shirley spent decades bitter about old grudges and would tell me to let things go. She would say enjoying the time I have is so much more important.
Go visit a graveyard. Let the emotions flow through you as you read names and look at pictures. What would they say to you? What chances did they not get that is slipping through your fingers right now?
What do you need to do before you come back to this graveyard for good?
Further reading: If this post resonated with you then you’d really benefit from The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. I spend a lot of time overanalyzing the past and anxious about the future, but this book pulls me back to the present. Savoring life, connecting with loved ones, and enjoying the time we have happens in the present. When this moment is gone, it’s gone forever. Don’t you want to live it?