Monday, November 27, 2023

What Would You Do If You Had Only Seven ____ to Live?

What would you do if you had only seven seconds, seven minutes, seven hours, seven days, seven weeks, or seven years to live? Ponder with me a bit about those seven sevens and what you would say or do. 

If you had only seven seconds left to live, there wouldn’t be time to do much of anything other than say or scribble a final goodbye to the person(s) closest to you. More than anything, I would want to say to my beloved wife of 66 years, “Goodbye, June, I love you.”

If you had seven minutes to live, you could reach out to more people to share final words of love and appreciation—and perhaps even to apologize to some.

In addition to June, I would want to speak or write some words of love and appreciation to my four children and seven grandchildren. (Could I get that much done in just seven minutes?)

If you had seven hours of life left, there would be so much more you could say and do—and you might even want to spend some time resting, enjoying beautiful music and/or peaceful images. As for me, I would also want to spend some time talking about spiritual matters with family and friends.

If you knew you were going to live seven days more, that would seem like a lot of time (168 hours!) compared to seven hours. You might want to think through your will and maybe make some changes. There might even be time to do some small things on your uncompleted bucket list.

If I knew I had only a week left to live, in addition to seeking to write final and meaningful words to share with all my family and friends, I would also want to make some major gifts to charitable causes, knowing that my savings were not going to be needed for long-term health care or assisted living facilities.

Seven weeks of remaining life would mean 49 days, and certainly much could be done in that length of time. If you are still employed, how long would you keep on working?

Many who are still working would doubtlessly continue for much of this time. Most likely, there would still be bills to pay. Some say that we should live each day as if it is going to be our last. But no one can really live that way. Who would go to work if it were really going to be their last day?

If you had seven months of life left, compared to the sevens above, that seems like quite a long time. Most would likely continue living much as they are now.

Those who could afford it would perhaps use much of that time near the end to visit family members and friends who live at some distance, and perhaps they would also try to visit some of the places that they had always wanted to see, or to see again.

But wouldn’t you also seek to be involved in some service activities, using some of your remaining time and energy for the benefit of other people?

Seven years, compared to the sevens above, seems like quite a long time. And some of us might well expect that perhaps we have only about seven years (or less) remaining. In seven years (on Dec. 20, 2030), I’ll be exactly the same age as my father was when he died at the age of 92.

I thought a lot about these matters while reading Mike Graves’s new book Jesus’ Vision for Your One Wild and Precious Life, which I highly recommend.** Mike's point is that Jesus’ message to us is not just about life after death, but how to live meaningfully and joyfully now.

Graves cites the striking words of E.B. White: “I arise in the morning torn by a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world. This makes it hard to plan the day” (p.77).

If we knew we had only seven—or even 27—years left to live, despite the challenge of planning each day, shouldn’t we seek to live our “one wild and precious life” seeking both to save and savor the world?


** I have written a review of this book for The Englewood Review of Books, which will be posted on their website in a few weeks. For you who read this blog post, I have posted that review (here) for you to read, if you are interested, as I hope you are.


  1. Many years ago I sorted out my life goals as trying to live as if I would die tomorrow along with trying to live as if I would live forever. I like E. B. White's quote, I would savor in the short run and save in the long run. I think the Sevens question nicely clarifies the big question of life.

    A while back my old church in Liberty featured the Mary Oliver quote in our Sunday bulletin. Life is wild and precious indeed!

  2. Don't have to think much on your question Leroy because I am already living as IF I would die Any minute because none of us know when our expiration date is.
    I'm trying, with our Holy Spirit's help to get as many of our Family, Friends and Business Associates into Heaven with my Dear Donna Sue&me.

  3. There’s poignancy in the thoughts you raise about the limits of our finite lives, Leroy, perhaps because they’re experienced by infinitely wishful creatures … expressed well in a quote that sticks with me from Peter Bieri’s book Night Train to Lisbon:

    ““If it is so that we live a small part of the life that is within us, what happens to the rest?”