Living with a “terminal awareness” – seizing the day, basketball, and an excerpt from my next book…

We love basketball at my house. That means this time of year not only involves a celebration of Thanksgiving and the season of Advent, but we also gather around the television anticipating the upcoming season of college hoops. This week ESPN is showing the Coaches versus Cancer games. It is becoming an annual tradition for me, my boys, and my wife, (who cries every year) to watch Coach Jimmy Valvano’s moving speech made at the ESPY’s just months before his death.

I don’t know how anyone can watch him and not be deeply moved. Curiously, as I watched it this year — I had a copy of The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch sitting in my lap — I had just finished it. It is also a deeply affecting story of an extraordinary professor’s final thoughts in the face of a terminal cancer diagnosis. It makes “problems” like the bad economy, unemployment, or your boss’s terrible Christmas party – seem pretty small. I have found that many of us simply become too busy this time of year to appreciate the beauty of the season. Stories like these can help us refocus our lives on what is important. I muse about this a little bit in my upcoming book. Here is a brief excerpt:

Isn’t it curious how little we truly reflect on the shortness of life–and when we do, we concentrate all the more on changing the subject and avoiding it at all costs? My mom told me that if I would start flossing regularly I would live longer. She gave me these little toothpick flossers that come in a convenient plastic pouch to keep in my car, because she said the best time to floss your teeth is on the way to and from work. So I tried it one morning, only the flosser thing got stuck between two of my teeth. I couldn’t get it out, and as I was staring into my rearview mirror sizing up the piece of plastic embedded in my front teeth, I almost didn’t see that the cars in front of me were stopped at a red light. I happened to notice them at the last second and slammed on my breaks just in time! Wouldn’t have that been something—to die doing something that was supposed to prolong my life? At least I would’ve been meeting my God with clean teeth.”

Humorous meditations aside, we all essentially have a terminal diagnosis — don’t we? Unfortunately, many of us do not need a reminder as we grieve the absence of loved ones during this season. But, for those who do – I am thankful for people like Jimmy Valvano and Randy Pausch, who endeavored to remind us how important it is to vigorously live, to heartily laugh, and to deeply love. I hope you will take a moment to watch one of these videos this weekend, they have helped me (at least temporarily)realignmy supposed stresses and misplaced priorities… maybe they can do the same for you.

Jimmy V Speech:

Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture:

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