People who are staring death right in the eye often have great insights to share. American journalist and National Public Radio host Scott Simon shares some of his mother's wisdom from her dying words in his new book Unforgettable: A Son, a Mother, and the Lessons of a Lifetime.
One of the things he said especially struck me: "She said I should spend more time talking to people in their 80s because, I will never forget this phrase, 'They have looked across the street at death for a decade. They know what's really important in life.' She would have wanted me to share that."
"They have looked across the street at death for a decade." That is powerful. You just know that viewing death from that proximity and for that length of time would boil down so much of life to its true essence—to the bare essentials. At least for those willing to learn the lessons, the extraneous would have been let go. The truly important would be treasured and savored. Perhaps amends would have been made and forgiveness occurred. Words of love would have been spoken. And more.
Simon summed up his mother's wisdom at the end of his book: "Write thank you notes. Tip well. Sing. Drink responsibly. Remember that good manners cost nothing, and open doors. Reach out to someone who is lonely. Make them laugh. Help people smile."
Indeed. We can each learn from that.