DEATH

Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened. [Dr. Seuss]

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. When you're taking your last breath, would you want to regret that you were so afraid of dying that you failed to live? Of course not. You'd want your last breath to be, "Wow, what a ride!"

We came from a mystery and will return to it. If you have a religious outlook on life and death, you might think of heaven as a place where your lost future has been saved for another day. Even if you have a secular outlook on life and death, you might hope there are other worlds to sing in. Either way, it's likely that you will want to look back at your life and say...

I didn't die with a sour-grapes attitude about who I might have been. I died knowing I was the culmination of all the people I have been. I said what I knew was true, not what I heard on the grapevine. I took responsibility for the consequences of what I said and did. I remained enchanted by stories and comfortable with silence. I lived my life with passion, purpose and peace of mind. I didn't die regretting the past or fearing the future. I sang in the shower and danced in the rain. I paid attention to things that mattered. I died knowing how good life has been.

People visiting your grave will see your name, the date you were born, the date you died, and your epitaph. What happened between your birth and death is more important than the dates themselves, of course, and that's what your epitaph should convey. It should also convey the heart of why those things happened. An epitaph is your inalienable right to have the last word—an opportunity to capture and condense your life into words. Before you can write those final words, you need to identify how you want to feel about your life when it ends. And that will be your guide through your life from beginning to end.

Life is a journey, but we seldom think of it as having a final destination. It does, of course, because except for astronauts, nobody gets off this planet alive. So why not live a life that matters now so it ends in a way that matters. And if we do, our last Good Night will not be a sad, pathetic reluctance to leave the stage. It will be a journey into the sun rising to greet a new beginning filled with things that matter.