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The Countdown Clock

My sister, a registered nurse, shepherds patients through what the hospice industry calls "the dying experience." It was a surprising career choice, seeing as we both came from a family that didn't like to discuss certain great realities. But she's admirably committed to the idea that people deserve to meet death with dignity, as much on their own terms as possible. (My upcoming release, Head On, features a traveling hospice nurse as a heroine and is dedicated to my sis.)

Since she's been in this field, she's gained a perspective that I'm just beginning to appreciate. When they're counting down those final days and final hours, she tells me, nobody ever says, "I wish I'd made more money. I wish I'd had more things." They don't lament the loving relationships they forged, but those damaged ones that have gone unhealed. They regret the apologies withheld in pride or out of petty jealousy.

No one ever wishes they'd watched more TV or had a cleaner house, either. And she's never heard a single soul apologize for taking chances -- no matter what the outcome -- to follow a passion.

The truth is, we're all born with a cosmic countdown clock hovering over our lives, only the numbers are invisible. If you listen very hard, though, you'll hear the seconds ticking down. On your life, your loves, your chance to chase your dreams.

In the end, I don't believe it matters as much if you catch them than it does to say you gave it your best shot. The most lasting, closest friendships of my life have formed as I've pursued my writing. Whatever modest successes I've achieved have certainly boosted me, but temporarily. These friends sustain my spirits in good times and in bad. And so does the knowledge that I'm honoring the gifts and passions I've been given, that I'm doing my level best to improve my craft and put out the best work I can with each effort. That work and that dream immeasurably enrich what time I have.

When my clock counts down its final seconds, I may not be dying on my own terms, but I'm hoping for the solace of knowing that that's the way I lived.

Today, I'm going to focus on the way I use (or waste) my time. If there are chores to do (there are), I mean to rush through them and get to the important stuff -- my family and my writing -- while I still have the chance.


Joni Rodgers said…
Thanks for that, Colleen. Beautifully said.

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