A friend of mine died the other day.
The last time I saw him was in December. We bumped into each other at an art exhibition in town—an annual event for children in need we once organized together—and he pulled me aside and said, “Adam, I have cancer. But I’m not ready to die.”
This man—he was Japanese and spoke no English—was not only a good partner for the benefit work we began, he was a genuinely good man. He was the kind of selfless, smiling person that I continue trying to become.
The thing is, I felt a special kinship with him, too, because we had the same birthday. I mean, the same birthday: we weren’t just born on the same day, we were born on the same day in the same year. I can’t recall anyone else I’ve met personally, throughout my life, with the very same birthday.
We worked together on the art exhibition for several years, but as we both became busier with the rest of our lives, we handed over the event to others. And as several more years passed, we rarely saw one another.
So when I ran into him in December, I was delighted…and then disheartened to hear his news. I squeezed his shoulder and we made vague plans to celebrate our birthday together this past June. But we never really did socialize outside of our work, and the idea never materialized.
That was my first regret when I heard that he died: Why didn’t I try harder to reach out to him when I had the chance?
Then came my second regret: I know how brief, how precious our lives are, and yet somehow I’m constantly forgetting. Why can’t I remember this more firmly, the most important thing of all? Isn’t it time I was more mindful of being alive?
Since my friend passed away, I wake each morning and whisper: seize the day.
This is my vow, to seize each new day, however many more I have, and live them as fully, as consciously, as I can. I’ll still forget, again and again, but I’ll work harder to remember.
The fact is, as I mentioned in the story of my son’s brush with death, our lives can turn at any moment. And, sooner or later, they will. My friend was diagnosed with cancer less than a year ago—before that moment, he gave no more thought to this possibility than you or I right now.
Today, though, we have another chance to live and love and leave our children the best we can give—including the gift of language.
Seize the day.