You Don’t Have to Find Out You’re Dying to Start Living


“Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

Look around and you will see how many people spend more time “getting ready” to live than they do actually living their ideal lives. We often spend our time playing it safe instead of doing exactly what we want to do. Fear causes us to make never-ending excuses for not going for it. But what if you were more conscious of the fact that you’re going to die soon?

Rainn Wilson’s Soul Pancake has a video series called “My Last Days” where they document the struggles and uplifting stories of terminal illness. Last night, I watched the story of Zach Sobiech, a teenager diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. With only months to live, Zach used his love of music to say goodbye. (Tissue alert: I cried during most of this video and it was worth it to have my heart opened in such a powerful way.)

Zach passed away this week on May 20, 2013. But before he left this earth, he spent his time sharing his life and music with the world, inspiring millions of people with his song, “Clouds.”

Would you make different decisions in your life if you were more present to your own mortality? Unlike Zach, you probably don’t know exactly how long you have left to live, but at least you understand the truth that none of us will live forever. Looking at the big picture, you can see that you have a very limited amount of time to accomplish and experience the things you desire. This awareness is a very freeing state to be in.

If you can remember that you’re going to die, possibly sooner than you think, you might be more likely to:

Stop engaging in petty arguments and gossip. Ask yourself if this situation would matter if you only had a few months left to live. If the answer is no, why let it bother you now? Why waste any more moments of your life stuck in anger and negativity? Instead, spend that time doing something that actually makes you happy!

Stop working at a job you hate and put in the effort to find one you like. We spend at least 25% of our lives working, so why not give yourself the gift of enjoying what you do? Or at least find a way to authentically connect to the people you encounter at work, making a crappy job seem much more tolerable.

Start doing the things you’ve always wanted to do. Go to the places you’ve always wanted to go. Do the things you wrote down on your “bucket list” years ago when you were feeling optimistic and brave. Remember that you don’t have to wait until you have the right friend or partner to take that cross-country road trip with. You can go now and experience the adventure all by yourself!

Start taking more risks on yourself. Instead of choosing “security” over uncertainty, you have the power to take a chance and step outside of your comfort zone. Ask yourself what’s more important to you – not failing/looking stupid OR seeing yourself achieve something that deep down, you already know you’re capable of doing.

Whenever you feel paralyzed by the fear of doing something different with your life, call forward the truth that these are, indeed, your last days and it’s up to you how you will spend them. It won’t be too long from now when you will close your eyes for the last time.

Maybe all the best moments of your life will flash by like a movie and you’ll remember how beautiful the moon looked that night in Paris or the way the audience gave you a standing ovation after hearing you sing your song.

Or maybe you won’t remember anything at all.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Are you living the life you want right now or are you still “getting ready” to live it? How would you be spending your time if you knew you only had a few months left to live?

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment below and join the conversation – our HBW Community is becoming a great place to connect with like-minded ladies, ask questions and get support :)


Rosetta Thurman is the Founder of Happy Black Woman. Follow Rosetta on Twitter.

Join thousands of women who have completed the only online course that gives you all the tools you need to get unstuck, set clear goals and rediscover who you truly are. Learn more about the 31 Days to Reset Your Life program here.



Comments & Feedback:

  1. Pauline

    This is such a good post. Really makes you stop, think and decide you want more out of life.
    Thank you ……

    And Rosetta i once saw your post or was it a tweet about travelling to South Africa, and a bit of reservations you had. I’d say go for it and come to this part of the world. I’m sure you would totally love it.

  2. Losing someone you love also hits home your own mortality. My world was rocked 3 years ago. Not doing everything but neither am I waiting to live. At my age and family history I don’t need to think what if. Everyday I think what can I do and am I happy. I’m not always happy, but always moving forward.

    Good read. Thanks.

  3. This is a wonderful post! I’m in the process of creating the life that I want and I’m realizing that I want to enjoy every minute of my life. I left my ex a few months ago and had been afraid to do so for a while because I didn’t want to start over with someone else and I didn’t want to be alone. I don’t regret my decision because if I had stayed this time, I would’ve been miserable; now I’m in the process of healing and rebuilding my confidence. I’m also finding various events and activities to do on my own. There are so many things that I want to do and experience so I just want to focus on me right now and surround myself with positive, inspiring people.

  4. neceyluv

    HI Rosetta, and congratulations on your recent decision to move to Hawaii!! That has always been my dream vacation spot – just the thought of it warms my heart like nothing else!

    I haven’t watched the video yet (but I will), but this post really spoke to me and I’ll tell you why. Three years ago, April 2011, I came down with an extremely rare illness called Guillain Barre’ Syndrome (GBS). Basically what happens is that, in response to a viral or bacterial threat, the body’s immune system attacks the central nervous system itself (instead of the virus or bacteria). The body begins to shut down and paralysis occurs (getting no signals from the brain to function). I was paralyzed from the waist down, my face, arms, feet, fingers, and some of my vital organs. I spent two weeks in intensive care and another 6 weeks learning how to do EVERYTHING again. I also had to take a leave of absence from work to recover. I have since returned to work (not school yet), and although I still have residual pain, numbness and overwhelming fatigue, I feel that I’ve been given the opportunity to see life from a totally different perspective. The things that used to matter to me, the things I “thought” were important…bleh. GBS has made me a better person. I think more about what I want my legacy to be, how I treat others, how I treat MYSELF, and how I want to spend my time. I could have died while in that hospital, and I’m here to testify that facing something like that will change a person! Thank you for allowing me to share my experience!

    • Thanks for your well wishes! What an honor to read part of your story here. I can only imagine how difficult that experience must have been for you and to come out a better person on the other side is a gift.

      If you’d be willing to share more of your journey as a guest post for HBW, please check out our guidelines here:

      • neceyluv

        Are you serious? I’d be honored!

        I will take a look at the guidelines and start writing! I’ve wanted to write “something” about this journey but haven’t finished. I had written a page or two, but then my computer crashed and I lost it. This will be a great way for me to start it again. Thank you so much!!