My third story is about death.
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was yourlast, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, forthe past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today werethe last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever theanswer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help memake the big choices in life. Because almost everything ?all external expectations, all pride, allfear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving onlywhat is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoidthe trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason notto follow your heart.
About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and itclearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctorstold me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect tolive no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs inorder, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything youthought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sureeverything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to sayyour goodbyes.
I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck anendoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into mypancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, toldme that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because itturned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had thesurgery and I'm fine now.