Monday, April 21, 2008


I recently received an e-mail with a poem by Erma Bombeck. You will remember her as a bright, funny, writer and columnist. This week is the twelfth anniversary of her death from cancer. The poem I was sent was written by her after she learned she was dying. I won’t include the whole poem but it basically dealt with the proposition if you had your life to live over, what would you do? I suspect that this takes on a whole new meaning if you know you are dying. In her piece she wrote that she would burn the flowered candle before it melted down in the store room. She would eat popcorn in the good living room. She would listen as her grandfather rambled on about stories she had heard before. There were many more things she would change or do differently, but I think you get her thoughts. Of course we can’t have our lives over.

Tim McGraw had a record out a while back that was titled “Live like you are dying”. The poem and the song were powerful messages. This essay hopes to challenge you and me to do just that. Live our lives as if there were no tomorrow. There is no guarantee that any of us will be here tomorrow.

Are you on a diet? I am. In fact I have been on a diet for about thirty years. I just keep getting bigger. Are you saving the good china for a special occasion? We are. It sits in the china cabinet and gathers dust and we eat on the everyday plates. We have beautiful crystal glassware that I have never had a drink from. Any time we buy something, we always think of the practical nature of the purchase. How long will it last? Will it have any residual value?

Are you putting off a trip? Would you like to see someone whom you haven’t seen for a long time? Are you trying to make your old beater car last another hundred thousand miles? Are you holding a grudge against someone you would really like just to sit down and talk to? When it’s ten o’clock at night and your mate wants a blizzard from Dairy Queen, do you fuss and fume? I heard once that life is short, eat dessert first. Good advice.

We have all lost close friends and loved ones suddenly and without warning. As our lives go on, it will continue to happen.

I have a neighbor who is fond of saying that he has never seen a hearse pulling a u-haul trailer. That is his way of saying that you can’t take it with you.

Here then is the message to you and to me. Live as if you were dying. Eat from the good china. Enjoy your life. I have said before and I’m sure you all have heard life is a terminal condition. This essay is not about death however. It is instead about life. If you knew you had a week to live, what if anything would you change? Would you burn the candle you have been saving for a special occasion? What is a more special occasion than your life? Would you take that trip to see someone? Would you eat that hot fudge sundae? Would you turn off the TV news and just listen to the silence? No this essay is not about death. It is for sure about life. Live it.

Ron Scarbro April 21, 2008


stephen scarbro said...

Though I understand the general premise,I feel it contradictory and perhaps a bit pesimistic.To live like you are living,to me,would seem more appropriate.Seize the day,as it were.Vitality,vigor,will,faith,and adaptability are all key to optimal and optimistic living.After having spent the last 23 years in the Alaska bush,these ideals are second nature to me.Dying is easy,living is hard.Embrace it.You are either predator or you are prey and one can not exist without the other.Indeed,life is fleeting.It is both simple and complex at the same time and if not fully understood,acceptance and reverance on a spiritual level greatly helps the human perspective.And,if one is not truly humbled by these concepts on a daily basis,you are not truly living.

Ron Scarbro said...

Easy for you to say. You are not 67 years old. Actually I agree with you.I choose to live my life as predator rather than prey. My point in the piece was to live your life because it only comes to us once. It will do no good to some day say, I wish I had done this or that. I encourage you to do what I am doing and that is to just live and love your life.

Stephen said...

Nothing I say comes easy as is apparent in the lack of continuity in my previous comment.I envy you and others with the literary gift to communicate well with others.
Age is relative and should have no bearing on the appreciation of life.Maturity and experience and the ability to learn from one's mistakes, and the mistakes of others, is fundamental to success.I do, of course, agree with your piece.I hope it will be helpfull to your readers.As a subject that is most dear to my being,I just felt like stirring the pot from a different perspective. A supplemental means to the same end.Thank you for your encouragement and wisdom.
I do love it so.

Heather Olson said...

Not only am I all teared up and loving your blog. I'm thrilled to get to know my brother a bit more. As he said, he's lived the majority of my adult life in Alaska and it's been nearly that long since I've seen him. Talk about a trip that needs to be taken.
Daddy, I love the poem you mention and I am so glad you are traveling to your 50th high school reunion in a couple of weeks. I'm glad you will see your father and old class mates, but mostly I'm glad I'll see you and Mom. As to whether or not she'll let you eat off the good china, well it is a discontinued pattern...
Stephen, I don't know if dying is hard. I'm not ready to find out. What I do know is it's hard to remember to live right now. To put aside agendas and play with each other and our kids. To pick up the phone and call my brother just to say hi. oops, getting teary again.
I love you all. God Bless.

Helen said...

How lucky you both are-
Heather directed me to this post and I absolutely love it!

I often ask people who seem to be stuggling with where life seems to be going-I simply ask a question I really don't want an aswer to-they need to answer it:

If you had one day left, who would you be with, what would you be doing and why aren't you doing it?

It's not one question exactly-but we don't know how long-we need to make each day be the best day-better than the day before.

Have a great day!