Individuals: Steve Jobs ...
- Steve Jobs: "You are already naked."
- Lee Atwater: "... It took a deadly illness to (learn) a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime."
- Jane Fonda: "I don't think we can fully live until we have come to terms with our mortality. My friend Fred Branfman calls it 'life-affirming death awareness. '"
- Rudy Giuliani: "I used to think the core of me was in politics. It isn't."
- Hamilton Jordan: "Even the smallest joys in life took on a special meaning - watching a beautiful sunset, a hug from my child, a laugh with Dorothy."
- Arthur Koestler:"To alter the texture of one's existence."
- Dave Mathews: "I find it much more surprising that death isn't part of the conversation at all."
- Jackie McEntee: "If I hadn't known the pain of being told I had only a few years to live, I wouldn't have fully lived. And would I trade this experience? The answer is no, I wouldn't go back."
- Tim McGraw: "Some day I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying."
- John Doe:
As the striking statement by Steve Jobs with which we begin this section demonstrates, individual testimony is perhaps the most convincing evidence that it is possible to face not deny death in ways that transform our lives.
Suggesting that we are most truly alive when we dare face our death, rather than deny it, is not mere theory or speculation. Tens of thousands of actual people have demonstrated it in their lives over the centuries.
Particularly striking is testimony by people who voluntarily face their mortality, such as the young Jobs and the singer Dave Mathews. Their testimony proves that we do not have to wait until we have a terminal illness to transform our lives by facing death.
The fact that Steve Jobs advocated facing death at a commencement speech to Stanford graduates illustrates another key point: it is it is possible to increase one's love of life by facing death at any age, even if one is young, healthy and has not had an actual physical confrontation with death.
We can also learn a tremendous amount from the testimony of those who have been forced to face death. This includes accident, near-accident, or suicide survivors; people with serious or terminal illnesses; victims of crime; and people who have lost loved ones.
Transformation by exposure to death transcends political and other differences - as the testimonies below by conservatives like Lee Atwater and Rudy Giuliani, and liberals like Jane Fonda and Hamilton Jordan, illustrate.
And these testimonies raise a basic question: why wait until we receive a terminal diagnosis or almost die in an accident to transform our lives?
Why not start now, while we are still in the prime of life?