“At the end of life, our questions are very simple: Did I live fully? Did I love well?” ~Jack Kornfield
When I was seven years old, I almost died.
My family and I were at Central Station in Sydney, Australia to celebrate the last steam train to ever depart the station.
It was about eight at night, and I remember it so clearly.
The train was stationary at the platform, about to depart. I heard the whistle from the engine as the wheels started to chug and move ever so slowly.
My older brother and I were excited and we decided that it would be a great idea to race the train. We told mum and dad, and they mentioned that they would meet us at the car outside afterward.
The train started picking up some speed and so my brother and I started to jog beside it. Before we knew it, we were running. Shortly after that, we were sprinting.
I remember ever so clearly watching the train as I was running along the platform. The carriages were a dark brown wooden color, and some of the windows were open. I remember one of the doors at the end of a carriage clanging open and shut with each jolt of the train.
Then, I was out.
The next thing I knew, I was huddled up in a crouched position with the wheels of the train literally centimeters from my face. I noticed that I was leaning hard against something firm. Then I realized it was the platform.
I had somehow fallen in the gap between the platform and the train.
I thought to myself, “How did I end up here?”
The wheels continued to roll past me, and I could feel the breeze like it was trying to suck me in. I crouched there, staring at the end of the train, waiting for it to finally pass me by.
After what seemed to be an eternity, the train finally moved past me and I was left there, crouching in the open with everything around me starting to go quiet.
I quickly stood up and turned to the platform to see an older lady sitting on a bench, hands cupped around her mouth and eyes wide open. She was completely in shock.
Before I knew it, my brother was with me and he pulled me up from the tracks onto the platform.
He put his arm around me as started to move hastily back to my parents. However, he quickly removed his arm from around me and I noticed it had blood all over it. I realized I was bleeding heavily from the head.
My parents were back at the car, and as we raced toward them they looked a little confused, not sure why I was crying and why my brother looked shocked. My brother started speaking really fast:
“We were racing the train, and I was ahead of Brendan. I was getting toward the end of the platform so I stopped, and Brendan just ran into me! He went rolling along the platform and hit his head on the train and fell next to the tracks!”
We rushed to hospital and got everything sorted. I was extremely lucky. The doctor mentioned that if it were an electric train I would have most likely died.
As I went through this experience, I had a number of thoughts running through my head. Am I going to die? Do I have brain damage? Am I still going to be able to do the things I want to do?
I then had some more thoughts that really hit me harder. What have I done in my life? Have I told everyone how much I love them? Has my life even mattered?
I was only seven years old, but these thoughts and this experience had a profound impact on the way I conducted my life from then onward.
I realized that I was blessed to have a second chance at life. I wanted to make sure that my life did matter. I wanted to make sure that I did achieve something and that I did tell those closest to me that I love them.
I started focusing on my own personal development. Throughout school I was determined to get good grades and perform well at sports, as to me, this was success. I was always fascinated by the mind and throughout these years had a dream of running my own business, training people on human behavior and performance.
However, I took on the advice of my parents and of society in general and ended up taking a safe job in the corporate world.
There were so many days while working in the organization where I asked myself, “Am I really making a difference?” and “Am I living fully?” And you know what? I wasn’t happy with my answer.
As the days went by and I asked myself these questions, I realized that I needed to make a change and make good on the promise I made to myself when I was seven years old.
Although not an easy step, I have since left the corporate world and have a feeling of living more fully, making more of a difference, and loving more openly in this world. I’m proud of that.
These are questions I still live by today and they guide me in everything I do. I believe they are the questions that everyone will ask when they are near the end of their time, and I encourage you to consider these questions today and regularly moving forward.
Have you loved fully?
I believe that the people in your life are the most important thing to your happiness, well-being, and your ability to cope through change in life. It is the people in your life that have made you who you are today.
Don’t be afraid to tell those closest to you how much they mean to you. The more love and appreciation you show to others, the more love and appreciation you will get in return, compounding its positive effect on your life and on those around you.
Have you lived fully?
I believe that we all have the strength and ability to do the things that matter most to us, every single day.
Don’t be afraid to do the things that you want to do. Take risks and live your life how you have always dreamed it to be.
It can be challenging to do so, but with careful planning, support, and some steps in the right direction, you will be able to live more fully in the way you desire. Experience life in all it has to offer. Take challenges, expand your comfort zone, and be the best you can be in this world.
Have you made a difference?
I believe that we are all here to make a difference in this world.
I believe that we all have something—be it wisdom, wealth, or love—that we can share with those around us.
Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe in and don’t be afraid to make yourself vulnerable. It’s this vulnerability that enables you to be who you truly are and demonstrate to the world what you believe in. There are others in this world that can benefit from what you can do or what you have to say.
Life is an amazing journey in which we are here to make a difference and support one another.
You don’t need to wait for a near-death experience to realize this. You can ask yourself these questions now. I can certainly say it’s worth it.
Photo by Ramon FVelasquez