20 Things 20 Deaths Have Taught Me About Life

03/16/2015 10:32 am ET | Updated May 16, 2015


While other families were eating breakfast together or watching football on Thanksgiving morning, my family gathered in Baptist South Hospital grieving the sudden passing of my Grandfather.

It's been almost four months since my Grandfather's death. Like those who have experienced the death of a close relative or friend, his has been enormously difficult for me. Prior to my Grandfather's passing, 16 people I knew intimately died between 2006 and 2014. And in the last two months alone, a loved one, and two friends.

That's a total of 20 deaths in the last nine years.

For your average 25-year-old who has been fortunate enough to never live through a natural disaster, terrorist attack, or other catastrophe, this is a lot of death. At least it is for me.

I didn't get to see my Grandfather the day that he died. My immediate family was traveling to my Grandparents house for our annual Thanksgiving celebration in Montgomery, Ala., and we were running a bit behind schedule.

I'll never forget the moment my mother told me he passed away as we traveled in the car. We were one hour away from him.

I wrote in my Grandfather's obituary that his love made me feel full. By full I mean satisfied, content, and proud. There were times when simply hearing his voice was enough for me, and that voice, the way he said "Hello," or offered to send me treats 700 miles away, got me through some challenging times.

After his death, I realized that my time on Earth is extremely limited. I had always known this, but it suddenly struck me as one of those permanent facts of life. My Grandfather's death showed me that the healing process is not just about time, but the ability to apply what I've learned from him to have a better, more fulfilling tomorrow.

One lesson I learned was that if you let it, death will cripple you.

I'm not an expert on dealing with death and I've been to my share of grief counseling, but the manner by which death can cripple you is that it makes you more aware of what you have and haven't been doing with this thing we call life. Some people choose to use this knowledge for their betterment, i.e., creating bucket lists, getting healthier, quitting a job they're unhappy with; while others use it as an excuse to stop living.

Just because you're alive doesn't mean you're living.

I have been privy to the wisdom of what death teaches you. As the years and months have passed, these 20 deaths have taught me something very valuable about how to live my life, the importance of love, and how to make each day last a lifetime.

Thus, I have soaked up these 20 little nuggets of wisdom, and they have become my greatest treasure.

  1. Chase dreams as fast as a pitcher might throw his last pitch when the game is tied, and the batter is 3-2.
  2. Don't be afraid to be the only one dancing by yourself. Other people will get the courage to join you by seeing your own courage.
  3. Making mistakes does have consequences.
  4. Shower someone with kindness after they've wronged you. They will never forget you.
  5. Believe in something bigger and greater than yourself.
  6. If you make a promise, you should keep it.
  7. Have great expectations for the people you love, and hold yourself to your own standards.
  8. Be a team mom or dad for your friends and family; they'll remember you as their greatest cheerleader.
  9. Just because the party ends doesn't mean you have to go home, you just have to create your own fun.
  10. When you do something wrong ask for forgiveness, and also forgive yourself.
  11. Do not regret the decisions you make throughout your life.
  12. Take care of your mind, body, and spirit. Protect your positivity and spend time meditating to recharge yourself.
  13. Don't let your career make you, explore your passions, and don't be afraid to say no.
  14. Have discipline in every area of your life and create healthy boundaries that you can feel good about keeping.
  15. Your smile may be the only one someone sees that day so make it big.
  16. The amount of time you spend in someone's life doesn't equate to the magnitude by which you can affect it so make every season count.
  17. Treat others with respect even before they earn it.
  18. Privacy and solitude are just as important as being in a crowded room. Make time for both.
  19. Be yourself and be genuine. People will never forget how special you made them feel.
  20. Love someone like it is the last day you'll ever see them again.