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Of Life, Death and Finding Purpose

Caught up with life and its inevitable surprises, I haven't had much of a chance to post anything of late. Life continues to happen with no regard to my schedule or calendar.

Recently, a dear friend’s mother quietly passed away. Her mother was 96 and had spent the last year and a half bedridden after suffering a stroke. My friend became the primary caregiver, and all I can say is that her mother was lucky to have her.

All of which got me thinking about time, aging and my own mortality. It isn’t the first time I thought about death.

Growing up, several people in my family died young. They never got to see their kids grow up, they never got to grow old themselves, and they never got to contemplate the third act of life. I don’t know if they ever contemplated death, but I do know they went for it in life, which is what we are all here to do.

Aging starts the minute we are born, and it is a proven fact that the sooner we start prioritizing our health and overall wellness, the better our aging experience will be.

But, youth feels immortal, and all too often, indifferent to aging.

It is only through a lifetime of experiences do we begin to understand ourselves, others, and the world around us. We love and we hate. We laugh and we cry. We hurt and we cause hurt. We succeed and we fail. We give and we take. We find and we lose.

I’ve thought a lot about death over my lifetime, and the truth is, it has helped me focus on what’s really important in life – my family and friends, values, and wanting to leave the world a little better than when I entered it. It’s also helped remind me of the fragility of life and not to put off what I can do today.

I mentioned in previous posts how the unexpected death of my brother, Jeff, marked a new chapter in my life; one that is marked by creating a more meaningful life of my own – focusing on allowing my heart to lead me forward, caring for those I love the most, and building the capability and capacity to continue to bring hope to those who need it most long after I leave this world.

I realize that this vision will not come to be on its own. It’s something I have to work at to the best of my abilities. From here on out, every day must be an investment in that vision. I have to prioritize my physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, and cognitive health if I want to make this dream a reality. I have to stay curious, stay engaged, and keep moving and learning and growing. I have to invite others in who share in this vision. I have to consciously work to live my life above the fray and focus on what really matters.

And when I no longer can, I will rely on my fellow colleagues to carry it forward.

In Japanese culture, this concept is called Ikigai, which combines the terms iki, meaning "alive" or "life," and gai, meaning "benefit" or "worth." When combined, these terms mean that which gives your life (and others or society at large) worth, meaning, or purpose. The concept of ikigai is said to have evolved from the basic health and wellness principles of traditional Japanese medicine, which holds that physical well-being is affected by one’s mental–emotional health and sense of purpose in life.

Today, I am grateful for the wisdom of my own age. I’m also grateful to still feel like I have the spirit of youth. I still have dreams to realize and things I want to make better in our world. And I do believe our world needs me, just like it needs you. So, I encourage you, if you haven't yet, to step forward yourself starting today. Find your "ikigai." Invest in your health and don’t allow others to tell you your time is up.

Remember, you are a light that others need to shine. Carry on.

(to be continued)

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