If Humans Had Expiration Dates, Would We Live Differently?

If you knew the exact day that you were going to die, how would you deal with that information?

Mark Twain Photo Courtesy of  http://cherrybam.tumblr.com/post/50626391123

Mark Twain
Photo Courtesy of http://cherrybam.tumblr.com/post/50626391123

I think about dying everyday, it is one of the blessings and curses of my chosen profession. Being a funeral director has added an interesting perspective to my life and overall I look at this point of view as a blessing. But like anyone else, there are times when I forget all the lessons that come with this perspective. I can easily get caught up with life’s fast pace and miss out on the purpose of why I am here. For me, that purpose is simple, love one another and enjoy life.

So, what would you do if you knew the date of your death? How would your relationships with your family and friends be affected? Would you start a bucket list? Enroll in yoga? Eat more twinkies?

Do you think it would raise your self-awareness about the value of each moment or would it lead you into depression or panic?

Here’s the good news: none of us know when this day will come and having anxiety over it doesn’t help anyone. But just because we don’t know when that day will come doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t set aside time to  think about it.

I want to dare you to think about your death day.

Take a deep breath, I’m asking you to do this because I believe there are more benefits in thinking about it then you know.

Photo Courtesy of http://cubiclerefugee.tumblr.com/post/28693518364

Photo Courtesy of http://cubiclerefugee.tumblr.com/post/28693518364

Try this, the next time you wake up say to yourself, “This is it, my last day on earth – what should this day be like?” – I know you still have to go about your daily routine but how would that mindset change the day-to-day? If it was your last day at work or last meal with your family how would you want to walk out?

Here are the options as I see them, we can leave:

  • Thankful or full of regret
  • Happy or sad
  • Open minded or closed off
  • Mentor or captor
  • In the Present or in the Past
  • Courageous or Fearful

Our avoidance of death or even thinking about death is a unique trait to western society and it’s something I’m passionate about changing. If you look at most other cultures, death is understood and embraced as something to face and consider. We are missing great opportunities to live more fulfilling lives unless we take time to confront our own mortality and consider what legacy we want to leave behind. My encouragement to you is to stop living in fear or avoidance of dying, look at it in the eyes, know that you will meet someday and LIVE accordingly.

So, what would you do if you knew your death date?

 

*Neil will be speaking TOMORROW, Thursday, August 22nd in the evening at O’Connor Mortuary about what it looks like to plan out the legacy you want to leave behind. He will be joined by financial expert, Robert Trommler of Cooke Wealth Management. This is a one-of-a kind event that we don’t want you to miss.

Please join us for this free informational evening – all you have to do is show up! To learn more, click here.

Neil

About Neil

I was born into a large Irish Catholic family in 1967 as the youngest of seven children.

My Grandfathers were best friends & coincidentally, both owners of funeral homes. John Cox (Oakland) had Joseph A. O’Connor (Los Angeles)or “Johnny” as his best man at his wedding. My parents, Joe & Jane O’Connor, met through the friendships of my grandparents.
I moved to Laguna Niguel as a child & graduated from Dana Hills High School in 1986. I served in the Navy before finally joining the family business in 1989 and establishing the 4th generation of our family-owned & operated business. In 2000, after the retirement of my father, I became the President & CEO of O’Connor Mortuary.
I met my wife, Lisa, in Maui while on a yoga retreat in 2003 and we now have a son –
Jesse Joseph O’Connor – the pride & joy of my life.
I still actively play Beach Volleyball at Victoria Beach in Laguna Beach and practice Ashtanga Yoga, I’m extremely passionate about these practices, about staying healthy and balanced in my body, mind & soul.
As CEO I am privileged to be involved with partners in our community such as Saddleback Hospital, Mission Hospital, Age Well Senior Services, San Juan Capistrano Chamber of Commerce, TIP Trauma Intervention Program, and many others. My driving passion is to provide education, care & support to my family, friends & community.

I love helping others when they need it the most.

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  • Neil, this question is so intense and while my initial reaction would be to say: I’d move to London, see plays all the time, meet interesting people and have an amazing experience – I feel like that would feel really empty after a while. Truth is I am very fulfilled by the job I have, the relationships I foster, and the life I lead – I don’t know if I would live much differently big picture wise, but certainly other things would be affected like my road rage (why live angrily?), I think I’d wake up just to see some sunrises, hug my family more & give compliments out more generously.
    I love this question and the razor like quality it has on perspective, priorities and values. Thank you so much for this blog!

    • Neil O’Connor

      Hi Molly – Thank you for your comments! I hope this blog helps you in creating the mind set that today is your last day. Life is meant to live on the razors edge, live your life as it was your first day on earth and as it was the last day on earth.

  • Anne Anderson Collins

    Neil, Thanks for writing this. I would hopefully still be doing what I try to do every day, be light and salt and encouragement, and lead the way into the ark for anyone desiring to follow. I would say “I love you” a lot and mean it and I would make my bed and sweep the dog hair before work. 🙂

    • Neil O’Connor

      Hi Anne – You are welcome, I love thinking about our next journey! Life is full of mystery and excitement. It’s great to know and see you live your life as it is a gift, that is the gift you give others.

  • Elsa

    Neil,
    What an interesting thought. It may be the profession I am in, but I too think about this all the time. The wonderful thing about what I do, is that I have learned to really appreciate everyday and live as if it could be my last. For this reason, I enjoy taking care of my health and physical being, so that I can enjoy every bit of what life has to offer. As each day comes to an end, I think about how the details of the day and how things could possibly be better for the next day. I may be a routine type person, but it’s the little enjoyments and pleasures in my daily routines that I find gratification in each day.

    • Neil O’Connor

      Hi Elsa – Thank you for your reply! I am glad to know someone else thinks about this too. I see you living your life to the fullest, you have inspired me many times to become a better person. I always enjoy your company, you are full of lightness and greatness.

  • Fitz

    Neil,
    Intriguing blog to say the least. I would spend the last days with those I love and think all positive thoughts about my life. I would surely rest in peace and be happy knowing that the Bears, Bulls, White Sox and Hawks had all won world championships in my lifetime and the cubs did not.
    Thanks for the thought provoking blog.

    • Neil O’Connor

      Fitz – Thank you for your Chicago reply! What a great town, I am glad your teams won world championships while you could see them, that is truly amazing!

  • Neil O’Connor

    Hi Tom – Thank you for your reply! I can know you have left a legacy in creating a better world for future generations. I am grateful for your mindfulness.

  • Neil O’Connor

    HI Chuck – Thank you for your reply and insights! I agree I would not want to know the day or time, I think it would cause total chaos in the world. You have been a great friend and mentor to me, I have always appreciated your peaceful calming ways.

  • Patricia Kolstad

    Neil:
    You and I have been through so much in the time we have spent together. And I have always said that for a young man, you have great insight, ability and depth of soul. You have shown that here! And when I look back on those days I think, “this kid taught me many things”, and I am grateful. As I have aged I have realized that each day, each moment is an opportunity to do great things, to be a mentor to someone, to love unconditionally, to let my family and my friends . . and even strangers for that matter, know that they are loved. We all have many gifts, but like many of us we tend to keep them to ourselves. Gifts were made to be given away. I know that I have made a difference in my lifelong work, that I have made a difference in someone’s life, and that I truly have no regrets. And if my time should end today, I believe that those I have in my life would know how much I truly loved them. How sweet this life of mine has been. Even in turmoil, we rise up to meet the challenges. Would I change anything – sure, but right now, I’m living my best, being my best, and enjoying each day! Thanks so much Neil, for giving us the opportunity to ponder. Moments like these can be life changing!

    • Neil O’Connor

      Hi Pat – Thank you for your kind words! I am grateful for all your gifts that you have given me, friendship is the #1, persistence, patience, forgiveness, loyalty, courage, passion, love of friends and family. I love to see you fight for what you believe in, you are a Tiger or should I say a cougar? Either way you are a force of love and compassion. I am grateful to be in your life! XO

  • Arlene Blix

    I try to live each day as if today IS my last so I’d not change anything. When my husband was diagnosed with metastatic colon cancer several years ago it really put life, and death, in perspective. I’ve changed the way I live and am grateful to him for the lessons he taught me and others who shared our journey.

    • Neil O’Connor

      Hi Arlene – Thank you for your reply. Life has a way to help us change our perceptive. Living a life full of gratitude helps us stay in the moment. I hope and prayer that your husbands health has been resorted.

  • Jeff Turner

    Neil,
    This idea that you dove into head first is a very interesting one. It demands a change in our perspective and causes us to contemplate our purpose. I love your simple purpose for life being, to love others and enjoy life! I am moved to reflect upon the moments of my life just after I was delivered the news that I had cancer. I was in the hospital bed and the doctor, my brother-in-law and my wife had just left the room and I was alone and reeling from the words I had just heard. The television was on and there was a Coke commercial running with girls in bikinis and guys with surfboards. I remember thinking to myself, “How meaningless!” as I considered my situation.

    My perspective on life was changed in an instant. I was 29, we had two little kids, we were supposed to be moving that day and I was to start a new job the end of the week. There was allot that I was supposed to be doing and I had been concerned to get all of the details worked out. Now, all I could do was lie in bed. I was “just along for the ride”.

    What I walked away with is the importance of relationships. I wondered if I would see my kids grow up. The business of life or “hurry sickness” that we are so easily caught up in becomes nonsensical. Creating space in life or “margin” as some call it really appeals to me. Just stopping and enjoying can be so very hard for us.

    So, Neil, if I knew it was my last day, I would tell people how much I appreciate them, I would take time to connect with those most important to me. I would want a “peaceful day”, a reflective day. A day of thankfulness and with it, just the appropriate amount of sorrow in having to say goodbye.

    I love you brother!

    Jeff

    • Neil O’Connor

      Jeff – I love you too brother! I appreciate the way you live your life, you are faithful with great passion. I see how much you care for those around you, you have been a great friend and mentor to me for 25 years, WOW! Today is the day, we have one left, lets make the most of it!

  • Greg Forster

    Neil,
    One starts to read your blog and thinks that they have a mindset that is totally under control on this issue. As you encourage all of us to do, if we dig just a little deeper turmoil develops. What would I do? Yes! What would I do? From visions of creating chaos in ones life to doing absolutely nothing differently in our day to day routine, “What would I REALLY DO?” poses a question that, in the end, may never be truly, completely answered. If we knew, then, we could react. My best guess is to keep it all simple, to make each day the best that it can be, both for ourselves and the others that cross our paths from both near and afar. We know the quote “time is money”,another is “time is eternal”. You have challenged us to stop and find the time to really think.
    Thank you, Greg

    • Neil O’Connor

      Hi Greg – Thank you for your reply! I love the time is eternal, time and space are so mysteries, we have so much yet so little. I also like your thought of keep it simple, I hope this death due date helps you keep it simple in this sometimes challenging world.

  • Joanna Ramirez

    Interesting Neil! I suppose it is being in this profession that makes you think about things like this. I think about it all the time and because of that, I have changed many things in my life and have become a better person for it. Unfortunately, our profession opens our eyes to the casualties of life, young and old and it is those things that have made me appreciate life to a grander scale. Great post!!

    • Neil O’Connor

      HI Joanna – Thank you for your reply! You have been a great example to me how someone can change. I see the greatness in you, you are so caring and compassionate. You keep moving towards the higher calling in life, serving others, caring for those around you and making a better world for all. I am truly grateful to be in your life, thank you for being YOU! XO

  • Sharon Watkins

    Thank you Neil for this great reminder…..A friend recently sent this to me and it says exactly how I feel about living each day to it’s fullest……A friend of mine opened his wife’s underwear drawer and picked up a silk paper-wrapped package: ‘This, – he said – isn’t any ordinary package.’ He unwrapped the box and stared at both the silk paper and the box. ‘She got this the first time we went to New York, 8 or 9 years ago. She has never put it on, was saving it for a special occasion. Well, I guess this is it. He got near the bed and placed the gift box next to the other clothing he was taking to the funeral house, his wife had just died. He turned to me and said: ‘Never save something for a special occasion. Every day in your life is a special occasion’. I still think those words changed my life.

    Now I read more and clean less. I sit on the porch without worrying about anything.
    I spend more time with my family, and less at work. I understood that life
    should be a source of experience to be lived up to, not survived through. I use
    crystal glasses every day… I’ll wear new clothes to go to the supermarket, if
    I feel like it. I don’t save my special perfume for special occasions; I use it
    whenever I want to. T he words ‘Someday….’ and ‘ One Day…’ are fading away
    from my dictionary. If it’s worth seeing, listening or doing, I want to see, listen
    or do it now….

    I don’t know what my friend’s wife would have done if she knew she wouldn’t be
    there the next morning, this nobody can tell. I think she might have called her
    relatives and closest friends. She might call old friends to make peace over past quarrels. I’d like to think she would go out for Chinese, her favorite food.

    It’s these small things that I would regret not doing, if I knew my time had
    come. Each day, each hour, each minute, is special. Live for today, for tomorrow is
    promised to no-one.

    • Neil O’Connor

      Hi Sharon –

      Thank you for your response! I love the insights that you have shared. I see you living your life to the fullest and you encourage me to do the same. I appreciate your role modeling it is contagious, you always have a smile on your face, with a positive attitude. I always enjoying see you when you walk in the room, you are a bright light that radiates.

  • Shasta Thompson

    Great post, Neil! I think about this often, every day as well. I think it’s important to do your best every day at whatever you’re doing, live in the moment. To be positive and a good influence to the people around you. Also to remind your friends and family as often as you can that you love and care about them. Smiling is great too!

    • Neil O’Connor

      Hi Shasta –

      Thank you for your response! As you know I love seeing you, you are always smiling and positive, those are great leadership qualities that make me proud to be in your life. I am truly grateful to know you! Not many people can live with an open heart & an open mind, you do on a daily basis, you are incredible. XO

  • Michael Thomas

    “Live life to the fullest” seems to not be many peoples mantra now-a-days. Thank you for reminding us that the inevitable is coming, and that if we did have a time clock we would live much differently. I’m not going to take up yoga, though 😉

    • Neil O’Connor

      Hi Michael – Never say never! An open heart is an open mind, you are to young to have a closed mind. I hope you know how much I enjoy being in your company. I am proud of you and how you care with compassion and with an open heart! Namaste!!!

  • Jenn

    If I knew my expiration date I would spend a lot more time with my family, I would write letters to loved ones and tell them how much they mean to me and document parts of my life that were meaningful to me in a journal. I would also see as much of the world as I could and do all of these I have put off because I “have a lot of life ahead of me”. Even though there are a ton of things I want to do that I haven’t I would still look back and know that I had a great life. Thank you for helping us put things in perspective! It is a good way to live.

    • Neil O’Connor

      Hi Jenn –

      I am glad that you have so much love in your life! Life is so short we are blessed with what ever we have. I am glad to know you have had a great life and that there are more great things in store for you! Keep living with love.

  • Mitch

    Thank you for the reminder to keep things in perspective. What is important & what isn’t.
    People are important not things. So we need to support & enjoy each other. I would love to see more of the world we live in. But sorry, yoga is not on my bucket list. Thanks Neil.

    • Neil O’Connor

      Hi Mitch –

      Thank you for your reply! I see you living life with love and support of those around you. Yoga is not a bucket list item, it is a way of life! I am sorry I will not be able to take you down on the volleyball court, next year your going down!

  • Carrie Bayer

    WOW! This is the greatest blog so far! Since I began my “new” life 3 years ago, I have made it a point to live like there’s no tomorrow. I have done so many of the things that I wanted to do but was afraid to because of the consequences I would face in my marriage. The old me would stay home, clean house & do chores- it was expected of me & I was supposed to take pride in only that. The new me has days & nights that are so full of fun, activities & helping others that my home isn’t as tidy as it used to be- & I’m OK with that. Thank you for posing this important question, it is something we all need to think about so we can gain perspective on how we arrange our daily lives. Well done! Love, Carrie

    • Neil O’Connor

      Hi Carrie –

      Thank you for your reply! I am so thrilled that you are living a life worth living. I have seen the new joy that you have in your life over the last few years. Life is meant to be an adventure, full of joy & love! Anyone can have a clean house, yet sometimes people forget that life is meant to be lived. I am proud of you and how you have overcome so many challenges, I have always believed in you. I am proud to be your friend, XO!

  • Kari Lyn Leslie

    Neil,
    I definitely don’t want to know my expiration date. I try to live every day in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self control. I don’t always succeed, but that’s my mantra. I hope that in some way, I am spreading that philosophy to those around me. I know this is only part of the journey, and that it’s numbered for us all, so I set my feet firmly in my faith to carry me on to the next life. But for now, I can’t imagine leaving those that I love and adore.

    “Dying would be and an awfully big adventure.” Peter Pan

    Love you my friend!!
    Kari

    • Neil O’Connor

      Hi Kari
      Thank you for your reply! I always enjoy being in your company, your smile and positive attitude are very up-lifting. Hopefully you can teach me about self control, you know me, Im out of control most the time. Dying will be the greatest adventure. I love you too my friend!XOXO

  • Christopher Iverson

    I have always said to those who have asked me, “What do I get from my profession?” that the greatest gift received is the acute awareness that death can and will occur at any time to anyone. I balance that out by living daily with a deep appreciation for life. If I knew my “Return To Sender” date, I would continue to live working hard at being a better man, husband, father, brother, son, uncle and friend. I would also like to catch some awesome surf before the package goes in the mail!

    • Neil O’Connor

      HI Chris –
      Thank you for you reply! I love your quotes!! I see you on a daily basis care with compassion and strive to improve on any area that needs some love. I always enjoy your positive attitude and great smile, you have been a great role model and friend to me, I am grateful to be in your life! Your death will be like catching a 100 foot wave, exciting and adventures, who knows how the ride will end?

  • Erin Fodor

    Neil,

    I wish I knew what my true reaction would be. I would like to believe I would be
    comfortable with the news. I’ve dealt with a great amount of death in my lifetime, and am able to keep a positive outlook on life. My hope would be that because I knew the exact date, I could find peace and comfort. There wouldn’t be a mystery as to when will the inevitable happen? I would be deeply saddened for my loved ones. With knowing first hand what it feels like to loose someone dear to your heart. But given one day or a specific date, I would try my best to put forth the effort to tell/show the people I care about how much I care about them. I’m not sure I would do anything different personally; I would just want to make sure my loved ones were taken care of to the best of my ability. I try my best to live life without regrets and there is a lot left on my bucket list to do. But I feel accomplished for my age, and feel as though I have lived a blessed life. This is what I would like to think I would do if I were presented with my death day. Thanks for the post; this one really has me thinking.

    • Neil O’Connor

      Hi Erin –

      Thank you for your reply! From the day I met you, I had a feeling you live your life to the fullest! You have such a positive spirit, i always enjoy being in your company. You have a full life ahead of you, I cannot wait to see how this journey will continue for you. I am deeply grateful to be in your life.

  • Neil O’Connor

    Hi Donna
    Thank you for your response! I hope everyday you can enjoy it to the fullest, regardless of what comes your way. May your days be filled with laughter, encouragement and appreciation for those you love.

  • Lori

    Neil,
    This is an interesting topic indeed! I am not sure I would want to know the exact date. I would want to be certain I outlive my Mom and Grandma (which may be impossible). I would not want them to experience the sadness that comes with losing a child. The main impressions I would want to cement on the minds of those I leave behind is, “she did everything with love” and “she was funny”. I love connecting with people and making them feel that they are important to me and loved. I also receive great joy in making others laugh. I do not want people to be sad when I am gone. I want them to remember all of the good times and know we will reunite again one day.
    As long as I am sharing the love, Love you Mr. President/CEO!
    With Gratitude, As Always…..Lori

    • Neil O’Connor

      Lori –

      From the first day I met you…………… you had me rolling! You can only go up from there. I have had great pleasure seeing you grow into new positions. You truly have the gift of caring for people. I am grateful that you are so bold!

      • Lori

        Bold! Why do I suddenly feel like a potato chip or barbecue sauce?! 😉

        • Neil O’Connor

          Hmm? Not sure maybe because you are chippy?

          • Lori

            Don’t let Lavoie write any more of your replies. 😉

  • Neil O’Connor

    Hi Shayna

    Thank you for your reply! Those are great life lessons to go by. I see you living you life fully everyday. I always enjoy your positive outlook and bright smile, you always brighten up my day. I am grateful to be in your company on a daily basis. Keep up the shining example of how life is meant to be lived!

  • Becky Finch Lomaka

    Neil,
    The first thing that just popped into my head after reading your blog is your saying “Relationship first, task second.” My perspective on life and on “living” has changed so drastically in the past few days since my brother’s accident and death. Living is connecting with and loving people who are important in your life, constantly building and strengthening the relationships you have. My life, without my relationships with my family, friends, co-workers, would be meaningless. I will forever cherish everyone in my life now and will look forward to the new relationships I will establish down the road.

    • Neil O’Connor

      Hi Becky

      Thank you for your reply! Life and death is always changing. I believe death can be a very transformative process, even under the most difficult circumstances. Even though I did not have the pleasure of knowing your brother Rob, his life and death have made a significant impact on how I look at my life and how I am going to live it from here on out. I am grateful that I am a part of your life.

  • Lauren

    Very inspiring! It really is amazing how we can lose sight of things and get caught up in routines that make us just go through the motions of life. There are definitely moments where I live in fear, a fear that can be paralyzing. Reading this post makes me want to shift into a more courageous mind set! Thanks for writing this Neil 🙂

    • Neil O’Connor

      Hi Lauren –

      Thank you for your reply! Life as you know is short, we are never fully prepared to say goodbye to our family and friends. Keep up your yoga practice and you will see the fears in your life will leave you quickly or stop coming? I am thrilled to be in your company on a daily basis, you are fearless and full of joy! XO