What about dying scares me…

I want to share a story about a friend of mine. Lets call him Tom.

Tom is a friend of mine who’s in his sixties. He has a very inspiring story. Coming from a poor family, he worked his way up building a business that made him the multi-millionaire he is today. At sixty, he’s very very cheerful, loves golf and loves buying new supercars. The only other thing he’s interested in (apart from family of course) is business.

A month ago I learned that Tom has been diagnosed with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer. It’s the same type of rare cancer that got Steve Jobs and the one insurance companies are so worried that I might get because of the cyst on my pancreas. So worried that they won’t insure me anymore.

I’ve been back to see Tom in the hospital 3 times now. He’s still his very happy cheerful self as he tells me how he feels about life now.

  1. He says that he no longer takes any interest in his business. Something that used to give him so much joy and something that he would devote a lot of time to.
  2. A month after he was diagnosed with cancer, he sold off all his supercars and kept only two more normal cars for necessary usage.
  3. He can’t play golf anymore and doesn’t think about it.
  4. He has millions to his name… but he knows even all that money isn’t going to necessarily save his life.

Tom is the first close friend of mine who’s fighting cancer and his battle has really changed the way I think about things. I think about my own death. The thought of dying and going into the after world doesn’t really scare me so much. I think I’ve done good things in my life in aggregate and I don’t think I would go to hell but hey that doesn’t say a lot. Okay so the thought of dying itself and moving on to a better place doesn’t scare me as much.

What scares me now is:

  1. Who will take care of my family. My wife, my kids.

Now for this I know that they’ll find a way. My parents, my sister, my wife… heck there will be someone around to raise them and they’ve got a long line of great candidates for guardians after me and my wife.

The other thing that scares me though is:

2. That I die before I reach my full potential.

I was reading a book today written by the founder of the Four Seasons and he talked about a friend of his who died at the peak of his career. At least he reached the peak. I’m worried that I might die… before I reached my full potential.

I know it’s a little narcissistic and also naive because hey in reality.. when you die… you die. Life goes on, people eventually forget you. I always remember how Nando Parrado told the story of how he came home years after the world thought he died in a plane crash. Everything was the same. Everyone grieved at first… but eventually life goes on.

That’s a sad reality. That most of us won’t be able to leave any form of legacy that anyone else would care about. The legacy I would love to leave though isn’t for anyone else.. but for my kids. For them to see that their father was able to be successful in what he did. That he failed and failed… but alas he succeeded. What I’m worried about is that I fail… and fail… but die or get crippled by some disease before I succeed. Never reaching my full potential.

I pray God gives me time to live life. I don’t know how long I would ask for. Life expectancy these days can go to 100 and beyond but hey… maybe 75 for me? Is that too much to ask?

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