Spiral Clock

It’s 11:00 pm. I’m wrapping up my day, recounting today’s events, planning tomorrow’s… and I just thought, “Who says I even GET a tomorrow? What if I didn’t – What would be left undone?’’ We’ve all heard the country song. We know we’re supposed to be living like we were dying… But on my last day, I actually don’t think I’d choose to go skydiving or mountain climbing – and if you see me getting on a bull named Fu Man Chu, please knock some sense back into me.

What would I actually do on my last day? What does it really mean to live like you were dying?

If I knew my breaths were numbered –

  • I’d savor each one. I’d take the time to notice what it feels like to take a deep breath and exhale.
  • I’d make a video for my kids, telling them who their Daddy really is beyond what their young minds can understand.
  • I’d write them notes for major holidays and life events.
  • I’d pray. I imagine I’d pray the most honest prayer I’ve ever prayed, with a fervor I’ve never mustered.
  • I’d call my family and my friends. I’d tell them exactly what they mean to me, and I’d beg them with everything I had left to run the rest of their race to the fullest.
  • I’d name specific gifts I see in them.
  • I’d right my wrongs as best as I could… If I needed to come clean with someone, I’d do it.
  • I’d forgive those who’ve wronged me in half a heartbeat, and let them know they’re forgiven – whether they asked for it or not.
  • I’d tie up loose ends. If someone was relying on me for something, I’d make sure they could pick up where I left off.
  • I’d find a kid I didn’t know and tell them my story in hopes that I might change a life.
  • I’d find someone who’d poured into my life and thank them for it.
  • I’d sing.
  • I’d play with my dog.
  • I’d hold the ones I love the most, tighter and longer than ever before.
  • I’d lavish kind words and encouragement on them.
  • And kisses.
  • I’d give away everything I’d accumulated to those who could still use it.
  • I’d clean up any messes I’d left lying around… Now that I think about it, that extends far beyond how I meant it as I wrote.
  • I’d tell my wife everything – EVERYTHING she means to me – and I’d let go of our shortcomings as a couple. I’d let her know that I KNOW she’d made me the luckiest man in the world.

Interesting – nothing here about enjoying my stuff. Wow… not one. Stunning. The pursuit and maintaining of stuff occupies the majority of our time, and yet, in the end, it doesn’t matter at all.

When I started this post, my goal was to identify what I’d do if I knew I was dying. But as I’m wrapping up, I’m realizing that if these things are important enough to me to accomplish in my last days or hours, maybe I should make them more important right here and now. So I’m making this my LIFE LIST. Tomorrow, I’m gonna wake up and get to work at finishing my life well… for as many more days as I’m given.

What would YOU do if you knew your breaths were numbered?


All of us need to be reminded what really matters now and then. If you think this would encourage someone you know, please share it with your friends and family.

This Post Has 27 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Wonderful post… I am pleased to say I learned several years back that it’s about the people in our life. Those that matter to me, I hope know, as I play no games when it comes to that. But, I would certainly remind them. I learned to forgive those I love or care about a long time ago and believe in the best of them. Those that don’t matter, I let go into the wind with well wishes. I love the idea of leaving notes for key events and holidays in the future to my children. If I was dying tomorrow… as much as I’d like to tie up loose ends, I don’t think I’d have the energy or time to achieve. In the end, I’d have to forgive myself for my shortcomings and pray for strength and guidance so that those that matter to me will be at peace and cherish our memories. This does remind of the legal matters (funeral finance/arrangements), I need to wrap up so they don’t have to worry with it. GREAT blog…

    1. Chance

      THANKS for writing… You’ve given me a lot to think about. :) Great comments.

  2. Lisa

    Honestly, the first thing that I think of instantly….is to make sure that my funeral is completely paid for in advance and that my family and loved ones would not have to worry about those decisions that should NOT have to be made at a time of the worst emotional distress. I would make sure I had a will prepared and in safe keeping and a living will as well and to make sure that all of my children’s names were written on every bank acct, deeds, pieces of property, investments, lock boxes, so that they would never have to go thru one day of probate court. My mother made sure that she did this when she knew she was dying…and it was the greatest gift to be able to pay her bills and take care of every legal thing for her without having to go thru all the legal mumbo jumbo…after her death. So, this would be the very first thing I would do.. and truly what we all should do way before we hear the words you only have a month to live.. and then ditto to everything else that you all have said ….oh.. and don’t sell my piano.. make sure one of the kids learns how to play it.. and sings their heart out to God!

    1. Chance

      We are in the process of working this stuff out as well. Thanks for the reminder to make it a priority. THANKS for commenting!

  3. michele

    “What would YOU do if you knew your breaths were numbered?”
    Hello my gentle navigator (I’ll explain that one day :). I can remember thinking about this differently in the many stages in my life. I believe my first reaction was a fierce determination to accomplish something thrilling, meaningless, selfish and just plain silly, like riding an elephant in Marrakesh. Tho my childhood was not always a sound environment my examination did start to become more candid, honest, and important. Maybe it came from being able to reflect on more because I had more.

    It never really appealed to me to save up living for the next life, whatever that next life might be. It was more like..live now, live in the nowness of time so that if death came I would be ready. Only I don’t think I was never ready and….I still don’t. I can think of a hundred things easy that have interested me in just the last two days alone that I would like to appreciate. Why even as I was reading your blog last night, I was rubbing my doggy’s ear, it was sooo warm and soft I had to make sure I had rubbed it long enough that neither of our hearts would ever forget that joy. Okay Yo Yo might :)

    Please don’t misunderstand because the love I would have for my family and for all my companions whose kindness has made my life worth living would be so overflowing, they could mistake me with a state of hysteria! But by just enjoying all the physical aspects of my last days would bring other tiny aspects, that would bring other tiny aspects….it’s like taking a walk in the woods and seeing nothing in particular or worthy or notable..it’s impossible …it is for for me anyway and perhaps I may be thinking about this fate again a year from now with a different serious devotion… I still think I will have left many things untouched, unsaid, and unseen but one thing is for sure if by the goodness of god this outline was long enough then like Cinderella I will be ready for my happily ever after…..

    1. Chance

      my gentle navigator… That’s sweet. I really like that… Not sure that I deserve the title, but I do love it. Gives me something to try to live up to.

      Ready for our happily ever after… really sweet thought. I loved so many of your words here.

  4. Diana

    I think about dying all the time and not in a bad way. It feels totally natural to dwell on my life in terms of the immediate future. I think God created a perfect plan that is unfolding through the good and bad of our lives. If we focus on death everyday in terms of being ‘right’ with God ie: at peace with our mortal souls, the list would be short. I sing at funerals sometimes and believe that they are THE most real place on earth because people are forced to face their mortality and question their faith or lack thereof. Then there are those who will never want to face death and prefer to keep ignorant bliss. There’s no question in my mind that we humans are being tested daily; all the more reason to look deep into our hearts and question not only our actions and lack of actions, but more importantly, our motives. This will ensure a shorter list of potential regrets in life. Thanks for sharing and letting me share.

    1. Chance

      I’ve only sung at a couple of funerals… but both of my parents went to heaven 4 years ago. Ever since then, I think about the other side of life almost every day. It has completely changed my perspective, and though it’s cost me plenty, I’m so thankful for the gift of the perspective.

      There’s no question in my mind that we humans are being tested daily; all the more reason to look deep into our hearts and question not only our actions and lack of actions, but more importantly, our motives… True, and convicting.

  5. Anna-Emily

    Chance, this post makes me want to stop for a minute and think about what makes my life worthwhile. The list you made is something everyone should make and each of us should fill it with what is really important in life. Relationships, any kind of them, are what matters the most. While here on Earth, we accumulate things that can make our life easier and more beautiful and sometimes it’s hard to remember to put living beings first. I guess that’s what I have to learn – not to forget about true values and let my loved ones know they mean a life to me. That is number one in my list. If I knew this day were my last, I would try to embrace my family and friends with love – each of them in a special way I have for them. It’s not my last day but I’m going to start right away. Thanks for making me think about this things!

    1. Chance

      Thank you for your kind words and for adding your thoughts. You’ve got me thinking tonight right as I go to bed. Beautiful words, beautifully felt.

  6. stephanie

    I think about this stuff often. When I was married to a man 16 years older, I used to watch him in a completely different phase of life from what I was experiencing, and I would note what was becoming more important to him as he aged. When my Nanny was downsizing for the second time, moving into a second retirement home with even smaller quarters than the first, I noticed what she kept and what she discarded, that she said, “I’d rather give it away now while I can see that someone I love is enjoying it,” that what mattered to her most were her closest relationships. I came to the conclusion that what ends up mattering the most later in life must be what matters the most at any point in life. I love your list. I will add some of yours to mine. And you and Jen are two of the friends I am very thankful for.

    1. Chance

      …what ends up mattering the most later in life must be what matters the most at any point in life… GREAT GREAT lesson. This thought is hanging with me!! Thank you for sharing it with the class. :)

  7. Dee

    Chance, you definitely touch on the beautiful things of life and living. Thank you for sharing them so beautifully. You are a treasure!! Thank you!! I will definitely be sharing this one too!
    Love you!!!

    1. Chance

      Thank you so much for your kind words and for continually reading and supporting me and this blog.

  8. Topher

    Chance… why you want to try to make me cry while I’m at work?! I still regularly quote something you said to me after meeting my bride… “Topher, we both know you’re a good guy… but you definitely married UP!” It’s so true… I have been trying to spend much more mental energy being intentional about letting my wife know how essential she is in my life every day. I love what you said about conveying to your girls who their Daddy is/was… I think of that so often with Anamieke… I just want her to walk thru life knowing that her dad loved her more than breath.

    The things you mentioned are true wealth. You and I are definitely two of the wealthiest people I know… wealthy in the things that matter. Love you buddy.

    1. Chance

      TOPHER!!! Miss you, friend. SO glad you commented here. Yes – two of the wealthiest people walking the face of the planet for sure. Ugh – would love to see your face in person. It’s on my wish list.

  9. Phyllis

    Great post! I always think it’s funny, though, when someone asks, “What would you do if you knew you were going to die?” The real question (as you realized in writing your post) is, “What will you do, now that you remember your days are numbered?”

    1. Chance

      Yes… that’s the real question for sure. THANKS for reading and for commenting.

  10. Curtis Swartzentruber

    In the busyness of life, it’s so easy to forget this. What a great list. Having a birthday this week, so it’s a good reminder that we only have so many breaths and so many days and we aren’t guaranteed any beyond the present moment.

    1. Chance

      HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Curtis. Hope it was a great day, and the beginning of your best year yet!

  11. Diana

    Good words to live by. Thanks Chance. Keep on writing as if this were your last day. We need to hear what you have to say. Love you & yours.

    1. Chance

      Thanks for your constant support, Diana. Means a lot to me that you’re reading. xo

  12. Dave

    I’ve thought a lot on this topic for several days now… Two weekends ago I sang at the funeral of a 19 year-old who died in a senseless auto accident. His dad asked me to sing “One More Day” by Diamond Rio. It was incredibly emotional.
    Now with the addition of several interesting points in your blog, you have me thinking some more…
    Thank you, Chance.

    1. Chance

      Great lyric! Thought provoking for sure. Thanks for reading and for commenting!!

  13. Bethany

    Good heavens, Chance! That was powerful, and just what I needed this morning.

    1. Chance

      Thanks so much for your encouragement, Bethany. Glad it spoke to you! :)

  14. Jim Sterling

    Thank you Chance, I’m going to do the same today.

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