Friday, August 22, 2008

Knowing When You're Going

Today, a small plane plunged into a house in North Las Vegas. The pilot and two people inside of the house were killed. They literally never saw it coming. And they're gone.

Former NFL great Gene Upshaw died of pancreatic cancer this on Wednesday. He was initially diagnosed with the disease only four days prior to his death.

This isn't going to be one of those entries that says how you need to treat life as a precious gift, that every day is special because it could be your last. I realize that a gas line explosion could destroy my house before I finish this entry. I won't bore you with cliched observations about life's journey. Instead, it's all about a hypothetical. Interested? Here it is.

The central question is: if you had the option of finding out when you're going to die, would you want to know? Bear in mind, the answer could be "next Tuesday", or it could be, "July 17th, 2041". Whatever the answer, that is definitely the check-out date for you. There's nothing you can do to prevent your demise on that day.

Advantages? Well, you could get your house in order, literally and figuratively, mend fences with those most important to you, and live the life you want until time's up. For example, if I knew I was going to die in five years, I'd probably empty my accounts and do everything that Pumpkin has wanted us to do, things that we had planned to do at our retirement. If I'm living until 90, I'd realize that I'll need to work longer and save more.

The disadvantages are obvious. The answer could be much, much sooner than you want. You will also not be told how you die. It's could be a traffic accident, cancer, car wreck, drowning, natural causes. You won't be told. Plus, you won't have any idea when your spouse will die. Pumpkin has said that even if her date of death was 40 years ahead, she would be obsessed with the date and thus unable to enjoy her long remaining days. She chooses not to know.

Opting not to know your date of death means that life goes on as it normally does, full of uncertainty and unanswered questions.

So what's it gonna be?

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