The most chilling part of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” comes near the end when the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come points Ebenezer Scrooge to a tombstone with his own name on it.
It is this final vision that does its job in making Scrooge realize he better change his ways before he dies if he wants his life to have meaning.
The idea of coming to terms with one’s own mortality and using that knowledge as motivation to make the most of each day is powerful.
Scrooge declares that “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” And just as with New Year’s resolutions, people have the best intentions to do good in the world and for themselves but often life’s daily happenings can derail them.
It takes a strong constitution and willpower to keep goals on track.
My life-changing moment wasn’t a ghost but a dead body, when at age 11, I witnessed my grandmother in a coffin. That startling image slapped me in the face with the sinking realization that life does not last forever.
I remember many times afterwards lying in bed struggling to get to sleep thinking about the eventual void in our future.
It accounts for the nervous energy I have and the impatience I display knowing that time is short and why I make lists all the time. Lists of errands to do each day, and lists of goals to work on each year.
In a way, death drives me to get things accomplished.
Of course, the number of years a person has to live can’t be predicted, though many internet tools claim to guestimate one’s lifespan with a high level of probability.
Based on the Social Security Administration’s Life Expectancy Calculator, I can expect to live another 24 years at my current age.
According to life insurance companies Northwestern Mutual and John Hancock, I have another 32 years.
Death clock.org actually gives a projected day of death and graphically places it on a tombstone like the Dickens’ tale. I have only 13 years left with them.
On poodwaddle.com there is even a clock that continuously countdowns one’s life.
The iconic images each December 31st of an old man representing the year that is ending and a baby representing the new year to come symbolizes the death and rebirth in all of us.
Each passing year marks a slight death for that is one year that will never come back.
However, with the utterance of “Happy New Year” comes yet another opportunity to reboot, redouble our efforts to be better people. Even if “life happens,” there is always hope that some of what we set out to do will occur.
If each person does something positive once a day, by next year, that would amount to 365 positive actions. That is a lot of contributions for one person.
One day a tombstone will have our name on it. And no matter how much money we have or how healthy our eating and exercise habits are, we will die.
Abraham Lincoln once said that “in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”
Here’s hoping that in 2017 you make the most of what days we have to do good for ourselves and for others.