Live like you were dying

Jan 15, 2024
Source: Getty Images.

My mate Ron announced the other day that he’d read that the average life expectancy for an Australian male was 82.

It’s really 81.1 years, but I didn’t want to make him feel even worse than he already was about getting older.

“I’m 74,’’ he said, almost surprised by his own admission. “That means I only have eight years to go.”

“That’s right Ron,” said Pete another golf mate “that’s 416 weekends left before you pop off this mortal coil.’’

That’s clever arithmetic and an interesting way of looking at things, especially as part of a conversation between four retired men. For us, every day is a weekend! Anyway, don’t you just love the start of a New Year. Everyone is taking time, even if it is subconsciously, to think about what it is to be human and to take stock of what they have achieved, and what it is that they still wish to achieve.

Most have probably already broken a few New Year resolutions, set on January 1. As you get older, it is impossible not to start thinking about the end. After all, in the bluntest of terms, Ron is potentially in the last 10 per cent of his life. He may buck the statistical trend and live to 100, I hope he does, but either way I’m sure he thinks about “the end” an awful lot more today, than he did as a 20-year-old. None of us want to get old and die, but we all do. Even The Who’s Roger Daltrey, the man who penned the words that defined my generation “I Hope I die before I get Old” is turing 80 in March this year.

I think it would be so much simpler if we actually knew our use-by dates so that we could start planning now. You’d know how much time, and money, you had left. If you only had a few years left, you’d hit the road and tick as many things as you could off your bucket list. In essence, you’d “Live like you were Dying” – which is the title of one of my favourite country songs. You would try to cram as much into life as you possibly could before the final chorus on the song. Sung by Tim McGraw, and written by Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman, Live like you were Dying examines the concept of what people do when they get a terminal health diagnosis.

In the song, a man in his forties is told that he is dying, most likely from cancer. When asked what he did when he got the diagnosis, he says:

“I went sky diving, I went Rocky Mountain climbing, I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu, And I loved deeper, And I spoke sweeter, And I gave the forgiveness I’d been denying.’’

In other words, he started ticking things off his Bucket List. The term Bucket List gained popularity following the release of the 2007 movie of the same name, starring screen legends Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. In the movie the two main characters escape from a cancer ward and head off on a road trip with a list of things to do before they die.

Death is one of life’s certainties. We will all have to face it at some stage. We tend not to think too much about it though until it is way too late. We procrastinate. And then stop, and we think about things again, for just a little longer. We all should start writing a Bucket List. It doesn’t matter how old you are. Go and grab a pen and a piece of paper and start writing. After that, as quickly as possible, start ticking things off  that list. Stop putting it off for another day because that day may never come. Most of us make New Year’s resolutions and, in truth, they are rarely ground-breaking. I’ve lost count of how many Januarys I’ve made a pledge to eat better, get fitter, drink less, and be more mindful.

It’s interesting that January is where we set our goals for self-improvement, as if we are openly admitting failure in the previous year. And the goals we set ourselves, more often than not, involve depriving ourselves of the things we love. So, this year I’ve decided that my goals should be bigger. They should be true bucket list goals.

Number one, and this is the big-ticket item, is to plan a white Christmas escape from the Queensland heat with my wife, three daughters and grandkids. I’m not sure where yet, perhaps Edinburgh (the city has amazing Christmas markets) or the French ski field of Megeve, one of the most stylish resorts in the Alps.

Next is to learn another language in 2024. Having travelled a lot, I know I am very lucky that English is the universal language. In so many places, you can get by with English, but honestly you are just getting by. Imagine how incredible it would be to be able to order a meal in Lisbon, speaking Portuguese; or chat with a gondolier in Italian as you cruise through the canals.

My third item does involve a significant amount of self improvement. I’d like to get my golf handicap down to 5. It’s 10.3 at the moment. I just bought a new putter and driving iron, so hopefully they will provide the impetus for some much-needed improvement.

The other things on my list are to drink better wines, eat better food, and wake up every day with a smile on my face. Wish me luck.

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