Last week I learnt the sad news of the sudden passing of an ex-colleague and friend. He was relatively young - only in his early 40s - and apparently he died not from illness, but from a freak accident that injured his leg, and apparently caused some circulatory complications (a blood clot, I heard) leading to him suddenly collapsing one morning.
There was quite a large group of people at his wake which was held at the void deck of the HDB block where he presumably had lived. I met some old colleagues and friends that I had not bumped into for many years. He was obviously well-liked and active in his organisation and community. I remember him as a very pleasant chap, smart, professional at work, relatively quiet but always with a ready smile and an approachable demenour.
As I had not seen him for a number of years, I wonder what he had been doing during that time. Was he happy? What were his life goals, and did he attain most of them? Were there things he would have wanted to do before he passed on so unexpectedly? What did he see as his life purpose?
Life can be so frail. Such a sudden passing could happen to any of us. I wonder when it is our time to go, would we have regrets? Would we have attained what we set out to do? Would we consider ourselves as having led a purposeful and worthwhile life? And what is the purpose of our life anyway?
This reminds me of something a Filipino friend of mine, Larrem, once introduced to me. Apparently the French novelist & playwright Honore de Balzac proposed a three part recipe for a full life- a sort of three paths to immortality:
- Write a book
- Raise a child
- Plant a tree.
For instance, "write a book" might be about documenting one's knowledge and experiences so that future generations may benefit from what one learnt or went through. It could include writing a book, but is not limited to just that. It could also be diary-keeping, journaling, capturing scenes in art or photography .. yes, even blogging. The essence is to leave something that records what you have learnt or felt to benefit or bring joy to others that come after you.
The "raise a child" part is not necessarily just about bringing up one's own offspring, although again that is obviously included. It also refers to developing people, recognising and enhancing talents, and generally helping other succeed if one is in a position to do so. Here again there's an element of imparting knowledge and wisdom.
The third part "plant a tree" is not simply about gardening or even mere agriculture. To me it is a shorform for conservation and replenishment of the environment, and generally leaving the world in the same or preferably a better natural state than when we came into it.
As for looking at my own life through Balzac's lens, well ... I figure I've done some of the first two items, but I can't lay much claim to the third. Perhaps time to give it more consideration.