Last Friday, I was sitting in church having a conversation with one of my terminal clients. The time has come to have the necessary talk about advanced directives, and how he wants to spend his remaining days. It was early morning and light was just starting to shine through the doors. As the light grew brighter, I could see a clear stream of tears running down his cheek. After the hospice case manager recorded his wishes, he said to me “If you bring me ice cream, I’ll be your best friend.” While that was meant to lighten the moment, he absolutely meant what he said.
Today, two days later I am running on the treadmill. I keep replaying this conversation over and over. If you bring me ice cream, I’ll be your best friend stands out like a sore thumb in my head. What was it about this one sentence that keeps playing over and over? With every step I tried to outrun it. The faster I ran, the louder I could hear it. And then finally it dawned on me. I stepped off of the treadmill and sat on the floor. I said to myself out loud “4 to 4. That’s How You Should Live.”
My client was told that he had 4 days to 4 months to live. When I asked about his remaining time, he said he wanted to eat ice cream. There is the answer to life. All those things that you would want to do if you had 4 days, or even 4 months to live, you should do them now. I am reminded of the saying that we should break out that expensive dinnerware, or open that priceless bottle of wine. Do not wait for a special occasion. Because life itself is a special occasion.
It is not what you made, but what you gave, that gives your life meaning.
You know all those grudges you are holding onto? Or what about all those people you haven’t told you love them in awhile? These are the things that will matter most in your 4 days to 4 weeks. Start forgiving. Forgiveness sets you both free. Tell your circle that you love them (and don’t do it by text.) Sure, they probably know. Tell them anyway’s. That trip you have put off. Find a way to make it happen. This is your life. And I have sat with way too many people who were dying to know this to be true. It is not what you made, but what you gave, that gives your life meaning. Give that love. Give that forgiveness. Give yourself that trip.
Someone reading this right now has no idea that they are in their 4 to 4. What would you do if it were you? Who would you give more time and attention to? What daily bullshit would you no longer let consume you? These things that are coming to mind, go do them. Because not one of us will escape the 4 to 4.