Seize the day and live your life to the fullest

The renowned composer, Shostakovich once said that talking about death was “tantamount to wiping your nose on your sleeve in company”. With that in mind, I have decided to broach the topic. While it may be upsetting for some people I feel that it can be quite liberating.

We often fall into the trap of dragging our feet, because it is an uncomfortable topic to deal with. We often forget to make an appointment with our spouse or friend. When was the last time we went to a place of serenity or took flowers and cookies to somebody we miss? We feel there is always time or as my friend says, “I will rest when I am in my grave”. This attitude seems to work well for us until it doesn’t, as nobody knows what tomorrow might bring.

I love sci-fi novels; they let my imagination roam freely. What I really enjoy is the invented subliminal words salted into a text. In the film, Minority Report, mutated precogs can see events in the near future, and prevent crimes. What a double-edged sword to wield, taking away the freedom of making mistakes, never being able to choose the road less travelled. The consolation prize is the promise of a safer world. The fake world of Hollywood aside, the best we can do is to acknowledge that there will come a day and an hour of our demise. The rest is not known to us. This is both a blessing and a curse. A poem written by Robert Herrick, begins with the line: “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may”, a more romantic view of time. If the rosebuds are people and love – what a blessing! There is a subtle warning undertone attached to these words. Time passes no matter how hard we pretend to be ostriches with our heads in the sand; it would be futile to pretend otherwise. Without maintenance, old buildings crumble following the law of entropy, relationships are the same. Thus, the true treatment for regret is a timely dose of prevention. What to do with this knowledge?

Perhaps, the recipe can be found in the few words often suborned by the internet’s glibness, “Love like you’ve never been hurt, dance like nobody’s watching, sing like nobody’s listening, live like it’s heaven on earth”. A phrase which is easier to read and to say than to live by, I think.

On the other hand, when the universe gets it right, when a meeting has been cancelled, or rain stops play, we should jump at the opportunity to gather our rose buds. Do something crazy. Watch a movie in the cinema with popcorn and slush puppies. If you don’t have the time, just walk around, do a crossword, doodle, meditate. It only feels silly until you realise that everybody else is also marching to the sound of their own drum.

I normally find the cell phone an irritation yet in such situations my best revenge is to turn the tables on it. I ring around or SMS to find who else has time to meet and share a sandwich or a movie together. Blast the cobwebs away.

The Latin phrase, “carpe diem” or the English translation, “seize the day”  should be a motto that should be stuck on the bathroom mirror as an affirmation, reminding us of how fleeting a day, a year or a lifetime can be. Are you feeling overwhelmed by all this? So am I, but I am not going to lower my sights! I am committed to being mindful of each moment of my life.


Rev. Doctor Gereth Edwards was a practicing plastic surgeon, co-founder of the Netcare Milpark Hospital - Breast Care Centre of Excellence and the Breast Health Foundation. He then refocused his life and qualified as a minister. He writes from both a scientific and humanities view.