Today, I finished a letter to you. To get it on (virtual) paper, it took me about 3 hours to write. In another sense, I’ve been writing it for 6 months. But in all aspects, it’s been 20 years in the making. All in all, it’s probably my best piece of writing, since I’ve been working on it for so long. Too bad you will have to wait a bit to read it.
If you are a Harry Potter fan, you probably recognize the featured image from the movie “Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows, Part 2.” For you Muggles and No-Majs, this scene is when Harry knows he has to sacrifice himself to Lord Voldemort. This magical artifact holds an important key for Harry, but will only reveal its contents when Harry declares “I’m ready to die.”
The letter I wrote will be read at my funeral. Before you jump to conclusions, I am not planning to die anytime soon. I’m 40 years old and am preparing myself to live for at least another 40 years. (In fact, I met with a financial adviser today to increase my retirement contributions). This is actually version 4 of this letter, having written each previous instance before a high-risk adventure (2 trips to Europe and Africa and long commitment to the inner cities of America), where I was not 100% confident of making it back home. This last year has been one of introspection and exposition, so I feel this is a good place for me to re-write this. More than ever, I’m set in my ways, so unless something dramatic happens in the next several years, what I’ve learned and experienced so far is what I can offer to you.
Part of my decision to write this (hopefully last) version is a reaction to 2016. This has been a big year for me personally as well as this nation. I have taken much of my free time thinking about life and recording my thoughts in this blog. As I remember the last 12 months, I can’t help but think about the last 4 decades of my existence. A lot of changes have occurred, and 2017 will bring in more unexpected surprises. So, why not be prepared going into the future?
One thing I have learned is that there is no time like the present to make changes. It can be saving for retirement, it can be looking to replace that unsatisfactory job/relationship/place to live, or start going to the gym or church. Whatever it may be, there are no excuses for waiting, because tomorrow may not come.
In that sense, I’m finished my last letter. I imagine I will share some of the stories with you (in person) from time to time. But often, we as humans wait to long to learn from other people’s mistakes and experiences. So, some of you won’t be ready to hear my message now. Maybe you will be ready down the road. Or maybe you won’t be ready until I’m gone.
That’s fine. I’m willing to work with your timetable. But I will encourage you to prepare yourself for the inevitability of life (which is death). Say what you need to say to your close friends and family. Set up your children with a will and living trust. And write your own last letter to us. Do not think you will have time to do everything you want to do or say everything you want to say before you go. I know I won’t; now, I won’t have any regrets.
You’d be surprised how free you will feel after you do what you need to do. Don’t worry about me: I won’t be free jumping or swimming with sharks anytime soon. But I am ready to go when it’s my time. I hope you do the same.
Until the end, I’m looking forward to 2017 and the future. Even though the future is scary of many of us, I am ready for the challenges. May you be ready for them, too.