What if this is all it is? Life in the Rearview Mirror

Let’s imagine…

Imagine you’re at the end of your life. You’re laying on the bed and can’t move. It’s dark, and there’s no one around. It’s quiet and chilly, and you are scared.

You know you’re dying. You know it’s over, and you look back on your life. There were good moments, and some excellent moments. But there were also disappointments, some major disappointments. The biggest is that at that moment, the moment which for you counts the most, there’s nobody around. And then the thought comes to you: ‘Is that all it is to my life?’

That’s all. You’re going to cross that river all by yourself.

But could it have been better?

At that moment, it doesn’t matter what had happened in the past. In that singular moment in your life, you’re alone, and that counts as the ultimate failure.

You think of your family, your job, and your health.

You remember wondering in the past what will your son say at your funeral. Now it appears to you that he even may not be there. You aren’t sure if there will be a funeral at all.

Your job was over a long time ago. After a year or so, nobody remembered your name, let alone your face.

Your health balloon is crushing to the earth. You’ve been told soon it hits the ground.

Is that all it is to life? Is life the biggest gift, or a colossal disappointment? If you talked to your younger self, what would you tell the young man?

You remember reading Thomas Mann’s Disillusionment. He didn’t offer any solutions. Just despair and waiting to die.

You remember listening to Peggy Lee’s Is That All There Is? Her answer was to booze and dance.

But you’re a doctor, and you know that prevention is much better than treatment. You know that preserving the family is better than trying to fix it, or start the new one. You know that your biggest job was to provide for the family’s well-being. Not only that, but you know that the best, and the cheapest way to keep your health is to prevent sickness. It is to eat right and exercise. From the earliest possible time.

That’s what you would tell the younger you.

But you would tell him also to live his life to the fullest. To take risks, to accept the failures. Follow the people who are different. Think differently yourself. Do not be a conformist. The opportunities are endless. Your choices will make the person you will become. Be focused.

And never, never give up.

Then you recall a song, I Hope You Dance. You’ve read it during your father’s speech at your daughter’s wedding. And you danced it during the father-daughter dance. . .

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder,
You get your fill to eat, but always keep that hunger,
May you never take one single breath for granted,
God forbid love ever leave you empty-handed,
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,

And then…

Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.
I hope you dance. . .
I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance,
Never settle for the path of least resistance,
Livin’ might mean takin’ chances, but they’re worth takin’,
Lovin’ might be a mistake, but it’s worth makin’,
Don’t let some Hell bent heart leave you bitter,
When you come close to sellin’ out, reconsider,
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.

I hope you dance…

But now the music is gone and all this is over.

Gloom, chilling, shaky gloom.

And then you wake up.

You reach to your right and your wife sleeps next to you. The kids are upstairs, and you realize it’s time to get up and go to work. You have life ahead of you.

You don’t have to imagine anymore. The terrifying dream is over.

But you know what to do now.

There’s work to be done.

There’s still time.


I wrote this post six months ago. Then, reading Meditations, I found this quote:

“Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now, take what’s left and live it properly.”

― Marcus Aurelius

So much for my originality.


  • I tell those who are going through orientation to become hospice volunteers
    Your life is summed up in 3 categories:
    1. relationships with God, family and friends
    2. finding and fulfilling your purpose in life
    3. legacy = if you do #1 and #2 well then this is how you inspire and are remembered.
    Thank you for sharing your journey. Each segment shared provides reflective understanding.

  • I think I will read the Meditation every day and remember to apply it to my life. Walking my Sevenfold Labyrinth will help. Thank you, Witek. We just lost our dog due to cancer and I hope to be guided rather to the meditation instead of depression. Death of a dog-friend….

  • Remember all the lives you’ve saved, all the lives you’ve extended, all the lives you’ve improved— and their endless connections to others unknown and unseen. Your legacy is endless.

  • Witold,
    I appreciate your thoughtful observation. Thanks for reminding me to prioritize the important over the regular task actions.
    Your creativity and willingness to accomplish new challenges have a positive influence on others.

    • Opinions like yours help me to wake up in the morning with a purpose. Thanks, Terry.

  • We just need to enjoy every day be surrounding by the people , who love and appreciate us.
    You are very much loved and appreciated.
    Take it from you sister.

  • Wow, your became a philosopher in your golden age, Witek. Who knew. I think you have a very few regrets about your life after saving many lives. Anyone who lived recognizing the difference between right and wrong and applying it in their life lived their lives right. Your patients love you and my patients love me.
    BTW the song “Is There All There is” has a beautiful melody and very philosophical lyrics. This song makes you look at your live and think. I believe there is no hell or heaven, there is the Universe eternity and our souls are there forever.

    • Thanks, George, for reading, and even more for your comments.You know what we’re both going through.


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