I have a long time friend whose name is Joe. During our friendship, we have been there for each other many time in the past. Several times, the problems faced by us were major or so we thought at the time. Recently, Joe was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I waited with his family during what was to be a four-hour surgery to remove the cancerous prostate gland. Within ninety minutes, the surgeon was back with us explaining that the cancer had spread to the lymph system making the prostate inoperable. My heart dropped into my stomach like an elevator in free-fall. I can only imagine what raced through Joe's mind when the surgeon told him about having to cut short the surgery.

In the ensuing weeks since that day at the medical center of University of Chicago, we have talked a lot about his fears and feelings. I have listened intently to what my friend says about having cancer for I am a mere half dozen years his junior. If cancer can strike him, it could also attack me. When I wore the clothes of a much younger man, I knew people died from things like cancer, but I was young and naive. Death is a much closer to me now than when I was thirty-something. Death is a very present reality for me now as I approach my mid-fifties.

In one of our post-operative conversations, I asked Joe about how he felt about his prognosis. Joe looked me squarely in the eyes and replied, "We will all die; that is a given for all of us. However, what isn't a given is whether we will all truly live while we are still alive." He went on to say that we walk around in our world and busy ourselves with things to do, but not all of us seize the day and live it to the fullest; we figure that we have time to kill. Joe sees himself as fortunate in one sense, he clearly knows that he is a terminal man. Joe can't escape that reality. Although he could live longer than his surgeon's prognosis, he is living life now to the fullest.

None of us know when our time is up. Because of this, we take life for granted and waste precious moments which we can never retrieve. It is a tragic irony that it takes death for us to understand life. In the movie, Dead Poet's Society, Robin Williams implores his students to "Carpe Diem!" It is important to "seize the day" and not waste the time that we do have here on Earth. The following are several suggestions for seizing the day.

  1. Manage your time. Take a few moments to schedule and organize each day. Whether at work, school, or home, get the most out of each day by managing the time of your life. It is critical that time management is done on a daily basis; a lifetime is lived one day at a time.
  2. Take care of yourself. You can't change the genes that you inherited from your parents, but you can watch what you eat and drink. You can avoid smoking all together. It is also important for you to get into a cardiovascular exercise program approved by your physician. Thirty minutes of some type of aerobic exercise will help with your weight, make you feel better, and add years to your life.
  3. Help someone who is in need. Do one thing each day for another person. These outreaches to others will vary based upon the time you have available. However, do something for someone whether it would be running an errand for them, helping them with their homework, or merely encouraging them by listening.
  4. Plan recreational times. Make certain that you do something for yourself each day that is fun or rewarding. Whether it is a hobby like sewing, building models, or learning to play the piano, do something that brings you joy and happiness.

If you follow these suggestions, you will be blessed with a long, healthy, and happy life. As you benefit from Joe's observation about truly living life, say a prayer for him and his family.

This article appeared in the Dixon Telegraph.