A topic a lot of people don’t like talking about is death. It’s an uncomfortable conversation, thought, and realization that death is upon us all. It’s morbid and it’s something that a lot of people just don’t like thinking about. No matter how much we don’t want to talk about it or think about it, unfortunately, it is going to happen at some point in our life. To me, it’s important to remember that. To remember that we’re not invincible and that we only have a finite time on this earth. Regardless of what you believe in (heaven, reincarnation, etc.), we only have this one life to live in this body.
Call me morbid, but I think it’s actually really healthy and an important thing to remember. When you remember that your time on earth in this body is limited, you start remembering to live your life to the fullest. The problem is, everyone thinks we have time. Which we do, but we don’t know how much time we have. Thinking this way was actually one of the main reasons why I quit my job to travel the world. I often thought to myself, “if I were on my death bed, would I regret not traveling the world?” and the answer was always “yes”.
I came across someone’s Instagram page of a young woman that had terminal cancer. She knows her life is coming to an end soon. When I was looking at her page, I kept thinking, wow, how crazy would it be to know that your time is ending soon and how different we would live our lives knowing that. But the truth is, our time will end at some point too. We just don’t know when it will end, but we do know it will happen. If we were to remember that, to know that our time may or may not end soon, how would we live our lives differently? I’m sure you would do a lot of things differently if you knew you were dying soon. There’s no doubt about that.
This post is a very meaningful post for me and is something I really think you should continue reading. It is long, but it has a lot of important lessons, reminders, and stories that are really meaningful to me and will hopefully help you. Take breaks if needed, but please, come back to finish reading it. Throughout the last few years, especially this last year, I’ve come to realize my existence and my time here on earth. How do I want to live my life? How am I making sure I am living my life to the fullest? I’ve reflected a lot, and with my dad passing away, it really woke me up in so many ways. I hope you can learn from a lot of the lessons that I’ve come to realize with life being so unpredictable and short. I hope you can learn from the words of the living and the words of the dying. These words are things that can help shape you into living a life you desire.
Before I begin on the life lessons, I want to share a little bit about my dad’s story and how I got to these realizations on how to live my life. For those who don’t know, my dad passed away on September 5, 2020. He was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in January 2020. The 9 months of finding out he had cancer and losing him were some of the hardest times of my life. There’s a lot of things I want to write about with my experience that I hope will help others get through this difficult time too but to be perfectly honest, it’s been too hard for me to write about it. Some day, I will, as it’s extremely important for me to share my story in hopes of helping you. Even this post has been challenging to write, but I wanted to write this for the living in remembrance of my dad.
Esophageal cancer has a very low survival rate and is a very aggressive cancer. Although we knew the facts, we still had very high hopes that my dad would make it through. My dad has always been a fighter and we were extremely optimistic and hopeful he’d come out on top. He did radiation every single day and chemo every other week for 2.5 months straight. In July 2020, we found out that the treatment didn’t work and his cancer spread. I will never forget that phone call and the terror and pain I saw in my dad’s eyes. Seeing him, knowing he doesn’t have much life to live, was really heartbreaking and hard for me to see. Seeing someone who has always been so strong, cry, will always be imprinted in my brain and the pain that it has caused.
After that phone call, my dad starting getting worse. He ended up in the hospital multiple times. He was struggling. He had a lot of pain and was very weak. I would lay in bed with my dad multiple times to keep him company and to cherish the time that we had together. We wouldn’t talk though. We just laid there in silence. He wasn’t able to speak much due to the tumor pressing up against his vocal cords and the radiation on his throat damaged it even more. During the last couple of months towards the end of his life, I would lay there with him, watching him just stare out the window stroking his chin. I would lay there next to him, wondering what was he thinking about.
I kept placing myself in his situation – what would I be feeling right now if I were him? I wonder what I would be thinking if I knew my life was ending soon. I could just imagine his life flashing before his eyes. All the good and the bad times and all the lessons in between.
Seeing someone you love so much deteriorate and die really puts your own life into perspective.
It’s been 1 year since I lost my dad, and I still can’t believe he’s gone. Every day I wish I could bring him back. I would do anything to hug him again and hold him close. He was my everything. He was my best friend. He was my life. When I see pictures of him, I am constantly reminded that he’s gone and I will never see him again. I am constantly reminded that life is short and everything in your life that you love can change in an instant moment.
Like I said earlier about the young woman that knows she is dying soon, how would we live our lives differently if we knew our time was coming to an end? When I watched my dad stare off into the distance, I thought about my life and my existence in this world. When I thought about it, there were 4 things that instantly popped up in my head which I’m going to share with you today. I hope that you can read the realizations I had and take them in as lessons on your life too.
How do I want to spend my time?
This was a big one for me and has been something I’ve been really trying to work on. How do I want to spend my time in my life? This realization comes with two parts though – how am I spending my life externally and how am I spending my time internally.
Externally, I realized I was spending a lot of time on things that didn’t really add value to my life. I was watching a lot of television, spending a lot of time on social media, and doing a lot of mediocre things in my life. I realized that this wasn’t how I wanted to spend my precious time here. I only have this one life to live, as me, Kimberly, that I didn’t want to waste my time doing things that didn’t add value or bring me much joy in life. I felt like I was living on autopilot and coasting through life without any purpose in my everyday life.
Internally, well, unfortunately, I am my worst critic. The thoughts I have to myself and about myself are probably the worst things I could ever possibly think or say to someone. I would NEVER in a million years say the words I say to myself to someone else. I am hard on myself. I allow a lot of my trauma and pain to control my reality and my life. I’ve had a lot of negative thoughts on my body image and my inner demons really took over every aspect of my life. Why was I allowing my only time here on earth to be wasted on negative thoughts? Why am I not thinking more positive thoughts that leave me happy and not feeling so bad about myself?
This was one of the main things that popped up in my head. When I was constantly criticizing myself and beating myself up for so many things, I was allowing myself to stay in this internal rut. I finally came to the realization that with my limited time living, I no longer want to feel bad and down about myself.
So in this lesson, I invite you to really take the time and reflect on how you’re spending your time externally and internally. Are you spending your time wisely? On things that make you happy and bring you joy? Are you living on autopilot? Are you living your life full of purpose and meaning? Are you spending your thoughts on uplifting and happy things? Or are you allowing yourself to be a victim of your thoughts? The truth is, we have full control over our thoughts and we can choose whether we want to have positive thoughts or negative thoughts. Too often people allow their thoughts to control their life, when in reality, we are in the driver’s seat of our thoughts and of our life. Let’s make sure we’re living a good one!
Am I living a happy and joyful life?
Similar to the first point, was I allowing myself to live a happy and joyful life? I felt like I was constantly in this internal battle of who I am. As I’ve been on this journey of personal and self-development, I’ve had to really pay attention to every aspect of my life. Sometimes it’s easier to stay where you are because when you’re dealing with shadow work, inner child work, and facing a lot of trauma and inner demons, it comes with a lot of work, pain, and discomfort.
Every single thing I do I want to make sure I am living a happy and joyful life. Life is too short to not be doing things that we love. We should always be aiming for a happy and joyful life. Do things that make you happy, smile, and laugh. And do those often.
Why do I allow myself to get worked up over pointless things?
Since I was a kid, my mom has always told me, “allow yourself to be upset for 5 minutes and then move on” and “if it won’t matter in 5 years, don’t let it affect yourself”. I’ve always tried to live by those rules, but something that I’ve always battled was allowing my emotions to sometimes get the best of me. I’m not an angry person. In fact, I rarely get mad. But I do get sad, anxious, and depressed a lot. Depression runs in my family so it’s something I’ve always battled.
This is actually the exact reason why I tried Vipassana, a 10-12 day silent meditation “retreat”, learning about one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation. Vipassana, in short, is a very unique meditation where you channel non-reaction to any emotions, thoughts, and feelings. During the “retreat”, we learn to meditate for 1 hour. During that hour, we practice no movement and no reaction. If you feel pain or an itch or want to move, you were to remain completely still and meditate on the sensations that you feel. As every sensation and everything in life are temporary and it shall pass. I tried Vipassana because I wanted to learn how to detach from everything in life. I was constantly on a roller coaster – when things were good, I was happy, but when things were bad, I was sad. I wanted to learn to detach and not react to any circumstance in life.
After my 14 days of meditating, I wasn’t able to keep up with the practice as it requires you to do 2 hours a day of meditation which I sadly wasn’t able to uphold. I fell out of practice and have realized the importance of this lesson again.
So I hope you can realize this too – life goes on. Too many people get upset or let circumstances get the best of them. Remember my mom’s mantra of “allow yourself to be upset for 5 minutes and then move on” and “if it won’t matter in 5 years, then don’t let it affect yourself”. Life is short. We shouldn’t waste time worrying about things that simply will not matter in a day, a week, a month, or a year. We shouldn’t waste precious time that we could be living happily, spreading love, or adding value to things.
Did I live my life to the fullest?
This was the most important thing that flashed before my eyes when I envisioned myself at the end of my life. Did I live my life to the fullest? Did I have any regrets? I think a lot of people towards the end of their life reflect on whether or not they’ve had any regrets in life and what they were.
This was the one thing that I was extremely proud of. I did not have any regrets. If you know my story, you know that for many years, I wanted to quit my job and travel the world. I let my fears, society, my comfort zone, and the stability of a job and paycheck dictate my life. I gave into those fears and didn’t live my dream of traveling the world. Finally, I came to the realization that life was too short to not be doing the things I love so I quit my job to travel the world. I know so many people who want to follow their dreams of traveling the world but have too many reasons and excuses that prevented them from doing it. If there’s anything that you learn, please, follow your heart and go after everything that you desire. It is my biggest passion to help others travel the world too. If you are interested in learning how you can also quit your job to travel the world, join my waitlist to learn how.
So the lesson here is to live your life to the fullest. Do all the things that scare you. Move to that city you’ve always wanted to move to. Follow that dream you’ve always dreamt about. Get out of the toxic relationship that you know you don’t deserve. Ditch your career and go after whatever you have always been wanting. Whether that’s to travel the world or completely change career fields. Please, whatever you do, go after everything you want. Remember, we only have this one life to live so make sure to use your time wisely.
How do I want to spend my time, am I living a joyful and happy life, why waste my time thinking about things that simply do not matter, and am I living my life to the fullest with no regrets were the top things that flashed before my eyes when I thought about if I were at the end of my life and what I would be thinking.
As time has gone by, I’ve reflected a lot more on my life and more on that scenario of my life coming to an end. There are many more lessons, that I would like to add later, but I wanted to include some other ones that are important to learn.
Who do I want to spend my time with?
This is something I’ve been actively trying to tackle. There are a lot of people in my life who I love dearly and who have been in my life for a very long time. Some are even my best friends. But I’ve come to realize, I need to take inventory of who I want to surround myself with.
You are the average of the five people spend the most time with.Jim Rohn
Like I said, this is something I’ve been trying to tackle for many years but more so within the last year. I’ve been really paying attention to who I want to surround myself with. I’ve held onto too many relationships because these people have been a big part of my life. But I need to also remind myself that I am growing as a person and with growth, comes change. Over the last few years, I’ve been on a huge journey of self and personal development. With that, I cannot keep surrounding myself with people who are keeping me stuck from growing.
I invite you to take inventory of your relationships. Is there anyone in your life that is keeping you stuck in your old ways that you’re trying to let go of? Is there anyone that is low-vibe that you’re wanting to distance from? Is there anyone that is toxic, manipulative, negative, judgmental, or gossips about other people? Is there anyone in your life that you know deep down you need to let go of? I bet you’re already thinking about a few people in mind as you’re reading this. I invite you to really think about your life and if you want them in your life. Because remember, you become the people who you spend the most time with. We need to be very careful of who we allow having access to us and who we give our energy to.
Did I prioritize life over work?
This is a big one. Unfortunately in society, especially in American culture, too many people do not have a good work-life balance. A lot of people prioritize work, their careers, and spend too much time working instead of actually living.
I experienced this early on in my career. I caught myself deep in depression, consumed with work. My coworkers were going through a similar thing as well. My coworker had heart problems because she was too stressed with work and my boss developed an ulcer because he was too consumed with work. We were all working in a very toxic work environment and I am very thankful that I experienced that early on in my career because I knew I would never allow myself to let that happen again.
Unfortunately, I forgot the lesson that work should never be prioritized over life and was faced with a challenging decision.
I put traveling full time on pause when I found out my dad had cancer. But since I couldn’t travel and was back in America, I figured I might as well work while I’m home so I can save more money for when it’s time for me to get back to traveling full time again. I started stressing out about money. I was on a walk with my mom and I got frustrated because I wanted to find work but my mom said I couldn’t because I needed to focus on my dad and be his caregiver.
Later that week, I was in the search of buying a car. Normally this is something I would do with my dad as I know nothing about cars and my dad was always there to help me, but since my dad couldn’t go with me, my uncle was very kind and offered to help. When I was driving with my uncle, I mentioned my frustrations with being home and not being able to work. My uncle told me a story that really made me realize what I was doing.
He told me a story about when he found out his dad was being put on hospice. It was the beginning of the day when he was at work and he still had a lot of work that needed to get finished. He figured he would go visit his dad later on in the day, which he finally did. He only had a few hours with him and his dad, unfortunately, passed away. He didn’t think his dad was going to pass so quickly. He thought he had more time with him. It’s been years now but he still regrets not spending more time with his dad. He regrets prioritizing work over spending time with his father.
It was my uncle’s story that made me realize that I was prioritizing money and work over my dad. Which sounds so awful, but it’s the truth. Having money and the means to support yourself is a very important thing in life. But it’s important to remember that life will always be more important and more valuable than your career, than money, than work. I hope my uncle’s story and my story can help you remember to never prioritize work over life. Life is unpredictable, and I would hate for you to wake up one day, and realize that you were too busy working instead of living.
I saw a quote that really had an important message in it and it said, “if an 80-year-old person worth $10 million offered to trade places with you permanently, would you do it? Of course you wouldn’t. Because time is more valuable than money”. Remember that.
Life can change quickly.
How quickly life can change has been a recurring theme in my life this past year.
Every year for the past 8 years, I’ve been answering a question every single day in my Q+A journal. It’s my favorite journal that’s easy and fast to use, but also provides great reflection. On August 26, my question for the day was, “what’s the best part of your life right now?” My answer in 2019 was, “Right now I’m in my happy place – Hawaii with my family. I couldn’t be happier. Dad, Ryan, and Krystal [my siblings] and I did a family scuba dive together. So fun! I love moments like this and I never want this to end.” Fast forward exactly 1 year later, on August 26, 2020, my dad’s doctor refused treatment for my dad. He said it was no longer ethical for him to treat my dad and that he only has maybe a few weeks to live. In that moment, I quickly saw how fast life can change. Here I was in 2019, in my happy place, the happiest I could be, diving with my dad in the ocean. Not knowing that 1 year later, I would soon be losing him.
Soon after that, we decided we needed to take my dad to the cemetery to see if he liked the location that we were going to place him at. My brother, my mom and I were trying to take my dad downstairs but he was so weak. We had to rest him in between stairs and had to quickly put his oxygen tank on him as he couldn’t breathe going down the stairs. We decided he was too weak to bring him to the cemetery and we would just bring him the following day. I stayed downstairs with my dad, making sure he had enough oxygen and strength to go back upstairs where he could lay down more comfortably. I had my dad write me a note that said, “I love you, love dad”. After he wrote it, I knew he wasn’t doing well. His penmanship has always been so good and so clear and his note to me was in a writing I’ve never seen before. That note reminds me of the importance of life and how quickly things can change. That was the very last day that my dad was able to go downstairs. The following day, he was no longer able to walk, talk, or fully function.
Lastly, we put my dad on hospice, and thankfully for his sake, he was only on hospice and really suffered for 1 week. Towards the very end of his life, there was one night where I laid in my dad’s arms and couldn’t stop crying. I was repeatedly telling him how much I loved him and how I didn’t want him to leave. He held me in his arms and comforted me. It was the first time in 9 months that I felt him hug me back. I remember so vividly him comforting me, holding me tight in his arms. It was a moment I’ll never forget. And then, of course, not even 12 hours later after that hug, my dad was no longer responsive. He no longer was able to stay awake and we had to keep him medicated and asleep. That hug was my last bit of time with him.
All of these occurrences reminded me of the importance of how quickly life can change. I am constantly reminded now that life is short, tomorrow is never promised, and to cherish every single second of life. Cherish every moment you have with your friends, family, and loved ones. I hope these occurrences have helped you realize how life can quickly change and to cherish every moment of life.
Were my final words loving and kind?
This is something I’ve always lived by. No matter what, even if I’m in a fight and my stubborn self doesn’t want to apologize (lol), I always leave with kind words. I never want my last words with someone to be an argument or something unkind. I always make sure to tell every single person I love that I love them. You never know when an interaction with someone might be your last. So always leave with kind words, tell people how you feel about them, and always spread good and loving vibes.
& with that, I hope you learned at least one thing in this post. I hope you don’t view this as morbid and you really see the importance of knowing your time is valuable and limited. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, a life without regrets. I hope this leaves you with some reflection and some inspiration to make some changes in your life. Life is too short to not be doing what you love.
Dave Lew says
Kimmy, thanks for sharing your story of you and your dad’s last days. I wasn’t able to be there during that time and didn’t know all the details of what he was going through, but knowing you were able to spend time with him is comforting. I too miss him and I think of him often as he also had an impact on my life.
Thank you so much, Uncle David. I really appreciate you being there for my dad and hearing all of the amazing stories you guys together (especially when you guys were neighbors!). I also loved your speech at his celebration/funeral and hearing how he’s impacted your life. Yes, unfortunately, my dad didn’t want anyone to know what he was going through at the time so it was hard to tell family/friends what was happening when it was happening. But thank you for being there and thank you so much for everything <3