Death: A Catalyst For Crafting A Legacy

in Cultivating Clarity
Crafting a Legacy


“Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we’ll die” Dave Matthews sang in the car as I drove back home from visiting a good friend this morning. These lyrics made me wonder about death, and what it is about death that causes some people to gain perspective on life – to awaken to what really matters.

Brendon Burchard, founder of The Experts Academy, tells his story of how a tragic car accident caused him to re-evaluate his life. Lying on the hood of his car with warm blood flowing down his head, he recalls three key questions coming to mind as he stared up at the moon: “Did I live life fully?” and “Did I love openly?” and “Did I make a difference in peoples lives?” In that moment, death, or the impermanence of life, became a teacher for Brendon: a catalyst that radically changed the course of his life.

In the book, The $100 Startup, Chris Guillebeau retells the story of John T. Unger who turned his fears and failures into great successes because of a crazed cab driver. John was a graphic designer who in a short period of time lost his job, his income, his girlfriend, and his apartment and so was left feeling very depressed.  (Sounds like a country song in the making.)

And this is where we pick up the story.

“The best thing that ever happened to John, as he tells the story, was a late-night disagreement with a crazed cab driver, who pulled him into the back room of a diner and held a gun to his head for a full ten minutes, screaming and threatening to pull the trigger. John finally escaped and walked out into another cold Michigan night, sweating, trembling, and glad to be alive. ‘I get it!’ John yelled at the sky as he hobbled away. ‘I’m just so lucky!’ ‘You don’t worry about the small things after that,’ John says now. ‘Everything takes on a whole other level of meaning.’”

Perhaps you know of someone who survived a heart attack, or who was diagnosed with a certain type of terminal disease, and as a result, made courageous choices in their life. Their health condition became a catalyst for them to re-evaluate their life, their diet, their values, and how they spent their time and money. But in the end, was it their health condition that awakened them to make significant changes, or was is it the threat of death that ignited their inner desire to live?

Greg McKeown, in his book, Essentialism, tells the story of how an Australian nurse named Bronnie Ware, who cared for patients in their final weeks of life, recorded the regrets she heard most often from her patients.  What was at the top of this list? “I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”


I don’t know about you, but that top regret hits home! Like Brendon Burchard, I want to know that at the end of my days I have lived life fully, loved people openly and made a difference in the quality of life people are experiencing.

So where do we begin?

How do we cultivate such clarity that our lives take on a meaning and a direction that is overflowing with purpose, wonder, love and adventure?

It’s interesting that as I write these words this morning, my mind wonders down the ancient paths of Israel where Jesus walked and taught. He taught that a person needed to “take up their cross” if they wanted to follow him. Kind of a strange metaphor don’t you think? The Romans used crosses for one purpose and one purpose only: execution.

This got me thinking that the metaphor “take up your cross” was a call to seize the day because every passing second brings us closer to what we know is certain – death. And if we look at the life of Jesus, is that not how he lived? Was he not a man on a mission who lived life fully, who loved all people openly, and made a significant difference in the lives of those he came into contact with?

Imagine if you knew that today was your last day of life on this planet. Imagine if today was the last day you would spend with your wife or your husband. If today was the last time you could touch their skin, hear their voice, run your fingers through their hair, hold their hand, hear them laugh, embrace, kiss and make love.

Imagine if today was the last time you could play with your kids, read them a story, listen to them talk about their day, visit them at school or work. What would you say to them? What words of wisdom would you share with them? Would you tell them how much you love them?

Imagine if today was the last time you would eat a meal, feel the sunshine on your face, watch the trees sway in the wind and hear the birds sing their songs of praise. Would you stop and savor the moment? Would you taste, feel, see and listen with a deeper sense of appreciation and awe? And as you imagine all of this, what to you notice right now?

Today’s Unitas Project:

  • Is there a phone call, or a conversation you have been putting off for sometime now that you need to make today? Is there forgiveness that you need to graciously extend toward yourself, your spouse, parent, sibling, friend or colleague?
  • If you lived every day knowing that death could come at any moment, how might this impact your relationship with fear? Would you really worry about what others might think, or say, or do? Or, would you harness the courage that is within you and begin to live a life that is instep with who you truly are?
  • Remember: We are all in this together. And to that end, let us keep working to uncover our potential as we spur one another on to discover our often hidden brilliance, live life with a resounding clarity of purpose, and embrace the beauty, strength and wonder of who we are.

Until next time…

Be You. Be Unitas.


Photo from Alina Joy Photography