Hubby and I lived with a couple different expiration dates. At time of diagnosis—because he was relatively young and in good shape and because prostate cancer is slow growing—the experts gave him two years. A little later, a different doctor projected another five years of life.

He beat both expiration dates.


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Snow-shoeing in the Cascade Mtns nine years after Hubby’s terminal diagnosis

I came across this quote by Richard Paul Evans recently. It caught my full attention because Evans was ruminating about how we might live if we knew what day we would die:

It [the date of our demise] could be tattooed on our foreheads like the expiration date on a milk bottle. … Maybe we’d stop wasting our lives worrying about things that never happen, or collecting things that we can’t take with us. We’d probably treat people better. We certainly wouldn’t be screaming at someone who had a day left. Maybe people would finally stop living like they’re immortal. Maybe we would finally learn how to live.

As it turned out, knowing we had less time to enjoy the life we shared together was a gift in many ways. Here are 5 reasons for having an expiration date:

  1. Maybe we’d stop wasting our lives worrying. I like to think of myself as a non-worrier. But I am guilty of wasting time and energy worrying about cancer death and what my husband might suffer. I remember 3:00am awakenings where my stomach would immediately tie into fear-of-widowhood knots. But these things did not unfold as my fears had imagined. Which means I wasted time and energy; I wasted stomach knots and 3:00am awakenings.
  1. We might stop collecting stuff we can’t take with us. In a sense, Hubby and I were forced to stop collecting stuff. With unemployment, we down-sized and, because we didn’t want to pay storage fees, we gave away a lot of furniture and 20-some years of accumulation. After Hubby died, I pared down even further. All my earthly possessions at this moment fit in a 10-ft cargo trailer and the back of my little SUV. As for my stuff in the cargo trailer? I haven’t had access to it for this past year and I’m doing quite well, thank you. Stuff. We truly don’t need so much of it.
  1. We’d probably treat people better. Gary and I always treated each other well — some days better than others, as marriage goes. But his expiration date enhanced everything. I fell deeper into love and empathized with him. How must that feel knowing you’re going to die sooner than planned? To not be through living yet?
  1. We’d stop living like we’re immortal.Most of us spend the earlier years of our lives and marriage and careers working and saving toward someday. Which we should do. But we need to somehow combine that with living in the present. Don’t assume you have forever to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Someday is now.
  1. Hopefully we’d finally learn how to live. With an expiration date hanging over our heads, Hubby and I found a balance between being wise and frugal with our finances vs. making memories and creating more fun and adventure. Because of cancer, life’s simple pleasures were so much more enhanced – road trips, eating ice cream, hiking through wildflowers, watching snow fall, the smell of wood smoke, fireplace crackling, sitting beside the river under impossibly tall trees with dinner and camera and Words with Friends.

We can probably all think of a dozen reasons why it’s a good thing our expiration dates aren’t tattooed on our foreheads. At the same time, we should be thinking of a dozen ways to live and enjoy life in the present.

What about you? If your expiration date was a year from now, how would you live this next year?

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