“One Month to Live” encourages readers to face mortality and live life to the fullest

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One Month to Live includes life metaphors like "Life consists of ups and downs, and we are along for the ride."

A variation on the Randy Pausch theme: “One Month to Live” is a book that according to the New York Times has inspired 1,800 churches in 48 states to plan workshops around its message.

Kerry and Chris Shook wrote “One Month to Live: Thirty Days to a No-Regrets Life” and its title explains its challenge. What if you only had one month to live. What changes would you make in your life?

In an article about the faith-based path to conquering negativity — with the great headline  “Stop Your Sobbing—Now” — Newsweek’s Lisa Miller writes:

“If you live the next 30 days as if they were your last, you won’t be wasting time, you won’t be complaining, you won’t be thinking, ‘If only I had this, if only I had that’,” says Kerry. “One Month to Live” climbed to No. 3 on the New York Times’s self-help best-seller list, where it has stayed for the past two weeks.

Samuel Freedman wrote a piece in the New York Times that talked both about the phenomenon of the book and about the ways it has pushed people to stop procrastinating what matters and focus on today.

It began in the autumn of 2007 in an evangelical megachurch near Houston, the Fellowship of the Woodlands. The senior pastor there, Kerry Shook, ran into a friend and longtime congregant, Jimmy Dowden. Mr. Dowden said that his prostate cancer had spread and that doctors had given him about six months to live.

“We’ll pray for you,” Mr. Shook recently recalled having told Mr. Dowden.

“You don’t need to pray for me,” Mr. Dowden replied. “I need to pray for you and the congregation. I’m not distracted by life anymore. I know exactly what I need to do.”

That exchange inspired Mr. Shook and his wife and colleague, Chris Shook, to write their book, “One Month To Live,” by early 2008. It combined life lessons, practical advice, gentle theology, quotes from Mother Teresa, Helen Keller and a panoply of religious leaders — and an audacious, even morbid confrontation with mortality. The Shooks expected it to be useful mostly for the fellowship’s 16,000 members.

“This is all about living,” Mr. Shook, 46, said in a telephone interview. “In 20 years of ministry, Chris and I have walked many people through the last months of their lives, and we’ve never had anyone say, ‘If only I’d had more possessions, if only I’d gone sky diving.’ It always comes down to relationships. That’s the priority all the time.”

That part about the dying man being grateful that his cancer had given him clarity, that’s profound.

I bet if you looked at your last month’s calendar and put a star next to things you’d still do if you knew this was your last six months, and an X through the things you’d have cancelled … well, if it’s anything like mine, you might make some changes.

Have you made a bucket list? Are you working on checking things off? Or are you waiting until someday — when the kids are out of school, when the recession is over, when this project at work is completed? Are you comfortable with your choice to put it off?

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5 replies

  1. Nice post, Colleen.

    The fall after I graduated from college I made a list of 25 or so things I wanted to do in life. Being 22 and thus immortal, I wasn’t so much thinking about kicking the bucket, granted, but it was a pretty good to-do list. Among the goals were selling my original art, publishing my cartoons, living in San Francisco, speaking on the radio and printing/selling my own t-shirts. Fairly simple things… nothing like “exploring the Amazon” or skydiving. Still, I’m amazed at how many of those things I achieved, probably because I bothered to really think about specific things I wanted to do and took the time to write them down.

    Now, at mid-life, is the perfect time to compose a new list. Thanks for the inspiration.

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