I recently had a conversation with someone that was facing a dire health crisis. Battling the advanced stages of an advanced illness, we truly believed he was at the end of his life’s road.
As we were talking, we delved into the ‘what ifs’ of his past. Traveling back throughout his entire life, he’d stop along the way to ask the rhetorical question of ‘what if’.
- What if I chose sports over partying in high school?
- What if I got along better with my parents?
- What if I stuck with my first career choice?
- What if I married this person?
- What if I didn’t marry that person?
The conversation was a mixture of heart-breaking devastation, a dash of fascination, and simple sadness.
Devastation because he was discounting his reality, as if each of the ‘what if’ answers would have led him down a road paved in gold, a destination that didn’t lead him to this illness. And as if this illness was cast upon him because of every decision he’s made. I reminded him of all the wonderful things he loves in his life – his daughter, his church, his girlfriend, and even his mindset. And that if he chose even just one alternative path, some or all of the things I listed may not be in his life. He would have lived without knowing them.
Fascination due to the pondering of what happens when we are done with this life.
- What if at the pearly gates, we get to see what life would have been if we made different decisions?
- What if we get to watch and see exactly why we didn’t make other choices under given circumstances?
- What if we see why certain relationships didn’t work out?
- What if we see why every decision made was the right one and any other wouldn’t have led to a life as beautiful as it is?
- What if you get to go and live the life you didn’t live in this one?
- What if you get to choose a next life?
I haven’t met anyone that can tell us with 100% certainty what happens next, so there is hope. Hope for whatever you want to happen after death happens.
- Maybe all pain will be taken away and nothing else happens, our existence is gone.
- Maybe we’re assigned to our next life and get a retry.
- Maybe we get to be guardian angels guiding our loved ones through their choices in life.
- Maybe we get to hang out with those that passed away before us and the afterlife is one big party.
- Maybe it will be exactly how it’s described in our religious beliefs.
The possibilities are endless. We just don’t know.
Sadness because a life was coming to an end and me and his other loved ones will need to walk the Earth without him for a while.
Happily, that conversation was not his last. Through medicine, hope, and prayer his story is not over and he’s feeling better.
Don’t break your own heart by living a life of what ifs. Past what ifs are lies because thinking about our personal history is skewed and doesn’t represent what the reality was. Similar to watching an Instagram feed, we tend to remember the highlights of the time and struggles tend to be forgotten. We only have now, and the real tragedy is wasting it by trying to rewrite the past.
Find the beauty in what you have in your life – friendships, family, pets, your health (especially your health) – and if you don’t like the decisions you’ve been making, start making different ones.
“What if nothing exists and we’re all in somebody’s dream?” Woody Allen