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John O’Leary shares how to live better by counting your days.

“The very thing you take for granted, others are praying for.” – Marlan Rico Lee

I used to be a huge procrastinator. Not just a motto, but a way of life, I believed “Why do today what can be accomplished tomorrow?”

Working as a hospital chaplain in my 20s, however, woke me up to be far more intentional in savoring the profound gift of each day as well as celebrating the wonder of simply being alive.

John O’Leary shares what it is like to be a hospital chaplain.

One experience especially stands out. It was late in the evening and I was on call. A patient was brought into the hospital after suffering a heart attack. The frantic pace of the staff gave every indication the situation was dire. As the patient’s family arrived, I ushered them into a private room near the Emergency Department.

The role of the chaplain in these situations is to sit with the family, serve as a conduit to the staff, and offer any emotional, physical or spiritual support to alleviate the agonizing tension of waiting. For family, the unknown and sense of total helplessness is the hardest part of the waiting.

On this evening, in spite of the best efforts of our medical staff, there was nothing they could do to revive the gentleman. After exhaustive work, a doctor came into the packed room, explained what had happened, and shared with the family that their loved one had passed away.

Shouts of anger and heartache filled the room:

“I can’t believe he’s gone!”
“Couldn’t you have done more?!”
“I thought we’d have so much more time together.”
“It’s too soon.”
“He was healthy and vibrant.”
“He wasn’t ready to go.”
“No! This is just not right. This isn’t fair.”

Even though I didn’t personally know the patient or his family, in their cries of despair, I ached with them.

The life lesson John O’Leary learned while serving as a hospital chaplain.

What I remembered most about that evening, though, was not the heartbreak or the grief. Tragically, as a chaplain at a world-class trauma center, it is common to be with families when they learn of a loved one’s death. It’s always heartbreaking. And frequency doesn’t make it easier.

No, the reason I remember that evening, that family, and their grief so vividly is because, for the first time, I saw that regardless of age or circumstance, the loss of a loved one is always shocking.

The man who died that evening was 86 years old. Although he’d lived close to a century, no one expected him to pass away, no one imagined he’d get sick, no one fathomed he would not be there tomorrow.

Few of us ponder honestly the profound fragility and beauty of life at any age.

Several thousand years ago the author of Psalms reminded us: “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

The goal of life isn’t to number the days to keep score, but in order to live them passionately, faithfully, intentionally, and lovingly.

Since that evening spent with a wonderful family mourning the painful passing of their patriarch, I’ve tried to focus on numbering my days. This attention reminds me daily what matters and what doesn’t. It informs what I say yes to and what I say no to. It reminds me that the time with my parents is fleeting, my role as a parent to little ones is ephemeral and the time with my wife a sacred gift.

Counting your days will make you live more intentionally.

My friends, knowing that tomorrow isn’t promised should not scare us. Instead, it should give us conviction to be far more intentional in living vibrantly now.

Today, choose to number your days. Rejoice in what you have and those gathered around you. And in the midst of the anxiety, difficulty and unknowns of this day, remain confident that this day remains a gift and even better days are yet to come.

This is your day. Live Inspired.

13 replies on “Count Your Days”

As Christians, we know this. It is a beautiful reminder not to take our days for granted and to remind others in the beauty of each day.

Another way Don’t count the days; make the days count. Another way of looking at this challenge.

“Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (James 4:14)

Thanks, John, for reminding me to number my days! Great message!

A PERFECT message that I am sharing with my friends John! Thank you for a beautiful reminder. Seize the day!

As always, Thank you for these inspiring words……my father passed away at 54 yo and since then (30 years ago)…I have treasured each day I have and try to live them to the best I can….always in the back of my mind – Tomorrow is not promised…..don’t put off what you can do today…..my dad worked hard his whole life so when he retired he was going to enjoy each day (fishing, boating, swimming, resting)….well, he passed 6 months before he was going to retire and never got to enjoy the fruits of his labor…..I swore to myself – that will never happen to me…..

Thank you John
I needed that today! I have been going through much stress & anxiety with a loved one!

Wow’!
Today I took the time to read your motivation… and it is spot on.
I feel as if I am racing through life to complete tasks…our days are numbered and so are the days of all those we love!

I should start my TO Do list with People not tasks…

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Live Inspired Together is a community of friends changing the world together, starting with their own. In a world that often focuses on negativity, John O’Leary - Live Inspired shares the other side of the story through his member-supported channels (essays, Live Inspired Podcast, video, webcasts, social platforms) to connect our community and share inspiration and actions to live it. Support now.