"It's only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth...and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up, that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had." Elisabeth Kubler-Ross quote.

Unexpected death can strike at any time, yet most of us go through life as though we think we'll live forever. Out of ignorance, frustration and anger, we may say harsh words to our loved ones, cutting words that may come back to haunt us for the rest of our lives.

In my college days, I knew a young man named Harry, who had a bitter fight with his father. I can no longer remember what the argument was about, but I still remember what Harry told his Dad at the end of it- "I hate you, and wish you were dead." Tragically, his Dad died of a heart attack several hours later and Harry's grief was inconsolable. He learned a hard lesson that night- that sometimes life doesn't give us a chance to make amends to those we've hurt and we're left carrying a heavy load of regret, shame and remorse until we find some way to forgive ourselves.

Recently, my dear friend, Joyce, died unexpectedly but due to her loving, gentle nature and God's grace, the content of our final conversation turned out to be a source of great comfort to me. We'd spent the last hour of our prescious time together talking about life, death and fear, versus love and faith.

You see, we'd both lost other friends a year earlier and had watched them suffer through repeated chemo, radiation and surgery treatments before losing their battle with cancer. As Joyce and I were about to hang up, she confided that, "I have no fear of dying, only suffering and pain. I'm ready to go home to God whenever he calls me, but I've prayed that when my time is up, he'll take me quickly."

I told her that I understood what she meant but that I wasn't ready to let her go and hoped God wouldn't take her for a long time. We ended the conversation as we always did, by saying, "I love you," but perhaps due to the nature of our talk that day, those 3 little words seemed sweeter and more meaningful than ever.

Joyce's daughter, Mary, spoke at her funeral and reminded everyone what we already knew- that her mother had practiced unconditional love wherever she went. Mary then asked that we pass the love forward as a tribute to her Mom and there wasn't a dry eye in the parlor.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, "Live as though you were to die tomorrow." and "Be the change you want to see in the world."

They were wise words, and my dear friend, Joyce, embodied them by mastering the art of spreading unconditional love. If each person that was touched by her love now passes it forward (including you, dear reader) the world will indeed be changed into a brighter place.

Author's Bio: 

Gail Sobotkin has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing and a Legal Healthcare Certificate from Fairleigh Dickinson University. She has more than 20 years of experience in public health and community nursing. She is currently a freelance writer and has had articles published in the American Journal of Nursing, the Delmarva Quarterly and numerous other magazines. She also writes nursing continuing education courses for Corexcel.