A couple of weeks ago, I was listening to an impactful book called, The One Thing, by Gary Keller. In the book, Keller talks about polling people who were at the end of their lives and asking them what a life worth living meant to them. Practically everyone said, “Live your life to minimize the regrets you might have at the end.” This statement got me thinking about what it was like to walk with Andrew from the moment he was given an earthly expiration date through to his death. It then got me thinking back to when I read Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (it’s a must-read) in college for an Entrepreneurship class. There is a very famous statement in the book that says, “Begin with the end in mind.” I can remember not being able to connect with the vastness of that statement and how to apply it to my life at the time. Fast forward 10 years, and I have a much better understanding now of what that advice just might look like in my life.
One of the many valuable gifts Andrew gave me through his final months of life was a clear example of how to spend my time on this earth. Today, I want to share my observations on what seemed to matter the most to Andrew once he neared the end of his life. I often think about his actions when I need to re-prioritize my own life, especially when I say “yes” to things and make commitments that are not in alignment with my true values.
- Helping Others – One thing that really blew me away once Andrew was diagnosed with cancer was how much energy and focus he spent on doing for others. Honestly, there is a part of me that thinks if I had the same diagnosis I might feel entitled to be a little self-centered. One of the things Andrew did to serve our family was to start doing his part to raise money for us, because he knew he didn’t have life insurance (it was too difficult to get since he already had cancer when he was 18). He raised awareness through his blog (andrewbheard.com) to start a fund for our daughter and help with our medical bills. He wanted to make sure Ellie and I would be taken care of financially. He also gave of his time when it came to his co-workers— I watched him spend time coaching, training, and helping other people develop their greatness.
- God-given gifts – Andrew spent much of his time confined to a hospital bed, but he did not let that stop him from using his God-given gifts. As I mentioned before, Andrew wrote a blog reaching out to thousands of people (he had over 300,000 views before he passed away) who had doubts and questions about their faith. He, too, had struggled with this and craved an open, non-judgmental space where he could share, connect, and inspire others who wanted to be heard and understood. He was also, hands down, the best public speaker I’ve ever listened to. Each weekend he stood on a different church stage for an hour (which was a miracle considering how sick he had been from chemotherapy treatments the week before) sharing a message God had put on his heart to encourage others going through various life challenges. I’m getting teary thinking about this because as his wife, I was in awe of his incredible heart. As he was fighting for his life, what was most important to him was inspiring others. He was purely selfless.
- Leave your Mark – Andrew’s dream was to be a writer, speaker, professor, world traveler, and to make an impact. He had all the talent and heart to do that, which makes his death even more devastating. Andrew wrote several books before he passed away, most notably:
– A Gray Faith: A chronicle of Andrew’s life journey, how to navigate the gray areas of our faith, and how to trust and make peace with God, even when we aren’t clear on all the answers.
–The Ellie Project (due out this May): An alphabet book Andrew wrote and illustrated for our sweet daughter, Ellie, about the important character lessons he wanted to instill in her. I remember them sitting on his hospital bed drawing and coloring animals together for the book. El loved spending whatever time she could get with her daddy.
Bottom line, Andrew wanted to share his heart and the message of his life with the world. He wanted his life to count for something— he wanted to leave his mark. I believe he did, and continues to do so.
From my observation, Andrew did want to minimize his regrets. He was such a dreamer, a multi-passionate and multi-talented man, but like many of us he did have beliefs that held him back from taking action on the life he always wanted. Once his time was limited, those beliefs that held him back seemed powerless in comparison to the legacy Andrew wanted to leave behind. I can’t say it enough, but even with all the pain associated with Andrew’s diagnosis and his death, I am beyond honored to have been on this journey with him and to always be connected to him through our beautiful daughter. His spirit has given me life. The lessons from his life and death have inspired me to fully live by taking risks, not being afraid to use my voice to be heard, and to value my unique God-given gifts to make a difference in the lives of others.
If you were told you only had so long to live, how would you spend your time? How would your life be different than it is today? I would love to hear your answers in the comments section. If you want more accountability to help you create the life you really want, feel free to set up a complimentary exploration call with me to see if we might be a good coaching match. You can connect with me at email@example.com. I hope you were inspired and challenged by this post today! I’m looking forward to reading your answers to the above questions. I value your time so it means the world that you would spend some of it with me today! Sending you a Texas-sized hug and smile 🙂 Blessings.
(Coming this May!!!)
Ellie Bonus Story:
ELLIE: Aunt Betty can we listen to music on your phone like my mommy does?
AUNT BETTY: I don’t know how to do that Ellie. I guess you go online and pick out a song.
ELLIE: I’m going to tell my mommy to get online and pick me out a daddy!