Throughout my medical career as a pediatrician, I have witnessed several children pass away. Each patient has a way of touching your very soul.
What I have learned from the precious angels that I have lost is immeasurable. There is wisdom that comes when a person faces his or her own mortality. The best way to honor the lives that we have lost is to learn from them and make our own lives even better.
Here are seven lessons I have learned from those who have gone too soon:
1) Never forget how big you are blessed
I will never forget the day one of my patients told me that she wished she was me because I could leave the hospital and she could not. Those words will always be with me.
While most of us lament over the happenings of our daily lives, we never stop to think about how a simple act such as walking outside is such a tremendous blessing.
It is these small treasured moments that a child in the hospital looking out of the window is wishing for. Yet so many times, we take this for granted.
I once took a patient outside the hospital on her bed for the first time in almost a year. With her IV meds and oxygen tank connected to her, she felt fresh air for the first time in 300 days. I have never seen someone so incredibly grateful.
She passed away one month later. But in that moment, with tears streaming down her face, she thanked me for taking her outside.
Francesca Battistelli once sang:
Sometimes in the middle of my mess, I forget how big I am blessed.
No matter what life mess you are in, never forget how truly big you are blessed.
2) Don't lose focus of the fact that your greatest investment will be in people
The only things a person in the hospital brings with them is the love and support of their family and friends.
They don't bring their big house, their expensive car or even their fancy clothes.
They begin to realize that their greatest investment has been in people. It is these same people who will shower them with support, love and good blessings that give strength during the tough times.
And when they have crossed over to the other side, they live on in the hearts and souls of those they have left behind.
The surest way to achieve immortality is to invest in people.
3) Be a collector of moments, not a collector of things
For a person in the hospital, every moment is special. People deeply cherish the moments spent laughing together and even watching TV together.
What if we started doing this before someone has to go to the hospital?
Learn to be a collector of moments. Cherish the moments with your loved ones as if you were collecting them. Store them in a special place in your heart and always keep looking to add to your collection.
4) Do not stress about approval
The next time you find yourself stressing about what someone else thinks of you, think of your last day on this earth. Will this matter then?
A teenage patient in the hospital once told me:
If I get out of the hospital, I will never stress about what others think of me. I spent so much time worried about being liked, when all I needed to do was like myself.
If there is one thing you should let go of this year, it should be stressing about approval.
5) When you have a choice between time and money... pick time
We spend so much time stressing about our money. We make portfolios, we create spreadsheets, and we hire stockbrokers. We spend hours trying to figure out how we can get more.
But what if we thought of our time in this way? Have you made a time portfolio? Have you figured out where and how you spend your time?
If you were given a choice between time and money, which one would you pick? I urge you to think about this.
Lives spent chasing after money at the expense of time with family and friends can feel empty and unfulfilling.
6) Never judge another person's struggle
I remember a child with cancer who told me that he thought God was punishing him. When I asked him why, he said it was because he had made fun of children who had lost their hair when they had cancer.
After reassuring him that he was not being punished, I realized that this was a life lesson. Never judge another person's struggle. You don't know where your own life will lead you. Bless others and help them without judgment.
Heaven forbid that you find yourself in the same situation, you would want others not to judge you.
7) Life is too short to not pursue the dreams that are in your heart
I cannot count how many times I have heard someone say that they wished they had more time to pursue the dreams that were in their heart. Sometimes we put off our dreams for the day when we 'have the time' or 'have more money'. Or we give up on them all together because we don't think others would approve.
As Danielle LaPorte said:
Do you remember who you were before the world told you who to be?
I am here to remind you that regret is a heartbreaking emotion. Don't find yourself in the hospital, regretting all the things that you wish you could have done. START NOW.
The best way to honor those we have lost is to make our lives even better. To pursue the dreams that lie deep in our hearts. To invest in people. To never judge. To be a collector of moments. To value our time. To not stress about approval. To always remember who we really are.
And to never ever forget truly how big we are blessed.