Make the Most of Your Life While You are Still Living

Life

By Daniel Amen, MD

(Originally published in the Daily Republic, April 6, 1995)

Last week, my 60-year-old uncle died of a rare form of leukemia. He was the baby in a family of five brothers. Only two brothers remain.

During the funeral service, my mind focused on the people sitting around me. I had my wife’s hand in mine. My sister Jeanne sat next to me (she was my best friend growing up). My brother was across the aisle with the other pallbearers. My other four sisters were nearby. My cousins sat next to my mother and father in the front row.

If life is short (which most certainly it is), why do we take so much of it for granted? Why do we have petty fights with our spouse? Why do we work extra-long hours for a few more dollars when our kids need us to be there at bedtime? Click To Tweet

I felt so clearly a part of my family in this time of grief.

During the funeral, my attention was drawn to my father. He has always been the patriarch of the family: strong, firm, brilliant, no-nonsense, and a much better grandfather than any of us kids imagined.

When I saw the tears in his eyes during the funeral, my heart broke. It is so rare to see him show that kind of emotion. I think of him as invincible. To see him in pain disorganized me for a moment.

This was his little brother. They worked together for 35 years. Saying a final goodbye was very painful. In the last year, my father had buried two brothers and a son-in-law.

Too often we were reminded that life is short. We are all only here temporarily. I felt very close to my father that day.

If life is short (which most certainly it is), why do we take so much of it for granted? Why do we have petty fights with our spouse? Why do we work extra-long hours for a few more dollars when our kids need us to be there at bedtime?

Why do we not smile enough at those around us? How is it that we get unconscious about our lives and go day-to-day missing the love we so desperately want from those around us?

How do we protect ourselves from the pace of life and truly focus on what’s important?

Here are some tips:

1. Know that life is temporary.

When you know that there is going to be an end to life, you begin to appreciate what you have.  Look at the world in wonder and enjoy the beauty around you (whether it is in a smile, a child’s hug, or a loving embrace). Smell the roses while you still have a sense of smell.

2. Tell someone today you love them.

Men have a harder time expressing love than women. It is very easy for me to tell my mom I love her. It just rolls off my tongue when I hug her. The same is true for my wife and two daughters. Expressing love and affection toward them is easy, and pleasurable.

Somehow with my father and my own son, it is not quite a manly thing to do. It’s harder, more uncomfortable, even though I have tremendous love for them. No question, my father is the man I look up to most in the world. I love you, Dad. (Note: Dr. Amen’s father sadly passed away in 2020.)

3. There is no time like the present.

I’m all for long-term planning but don’t get lost in it. The present moment contains all moments. Live each moment in a way that makes you proud.

4. Never lose sight of the goal.

In my 13 years of experience as a psychiatrist (note: Dr. Amen has now been in practice for over 40 years) I have discovered that almost all of us have the same goals. We want the same thing. We all want to give love, receive love, appreciate others, and be appreciated by others. Most of us want to somehow make a difference in our lives.

Does your behavior fit with your goals? If not, what can you do to change it?

During the funeral, my sister next to me was taking care of my cousin’s 3-week-old baby.

She had come into the world right before my uncle had left. It was ironic and precious to see the sleeping baby’s content face, while others were mourning.

If only she could listen to the lessons of death, perhaps her life would be easier, and happier. I’d better get to her before she turns 12.

Grief, trauma, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

5 Comments »

  1. BOY, isn't that the truth, Amen to DR AMEN….

    Comment by Judy — July 19, 2023 @ 7:28 AM

  2. I tell my son I love you, a cancer survivor of 8 years. Also hug him. Everyday.
    I tell my husband of 45 years I love you everyday.
    It could be the last time saying I love you.
    Three words mean so much. Try it.

    Comment by Jill — July 19, 2023 @ 7:51 AM

  3. I have come to feel that love given and love received is the only currency that survives earthly life. If we don't show up for this, we enter the "next world" in impoverished condition. Love enriches this life and the life to come.

    Comment by Doris Kohler — July 20, 2023 @ 4:24 AM

  4. wonderful advice!

    Comment by Doug Morris — November 10, 2023 @ 3:13 PM

  5. wonderful ideas!

    Comment by Doug Morris — November 11, 2023 @ 4:30 PM

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