What If You Had One Year to Live?

By Doug Armey

A friend died unexpectedly four days ago.  We had visited two days before in my office.  Everything seemed normal.  Chatted about business and our kids.

Then, I got a call Friday morning he had passed away during the night.  I was stunned.

A year before he had a slight heart attack and by-pass surgery.  But he had recovered and was looking great.  Same old Bill.  Then he was gone.

Caused me to wonder, “If he had known a year ago this was the last year of his life would he have lived it any differently?”

Then I thought, “If I knew this was the last year of my life would I live it differently?”

We all know we have a finite amount of time here on earth.  We all want to make the most of it.  It’s tricky though because we don’t know how much time we have.  We don’t get a countdown.  If we did we might live more proactively, at least our last year.  Personally, I’m glad I don’t know.

Chris Guillebeau wrote, “And yet, every single day, all of us get to answer a far more interesting question: What’s worth living for? If you could only pursue one thing, what would you craft a life around and do every day? And if real sacrifice was involved… would you stick with it?”

Great question.  What is worth living for if you knew you had one year to live?

As I’ve grown older I pause at times and think, “What do I want out of this life?  What would I like to be remembered for?  What is the legacy I want to leave?”

When I was younger it seemed life stretched out in front so far there was no hurry.  Plenty of time to get around to the important things.  I had time to accomplish my dreams.  But as I’ve grown older I realize it’s going by fast.  There’s no time to waste.

I plan on living actively into my 90s but there’s no guarantee.  Truth is there’s never been a guarantee.  That’s only an illusion.

I like what the psalmist says, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12, NIV)

Some translations tone this down by saying, “Teach us to be wise.”

I like the original intent, though.

In a normal life span, how many days do you have?

In your working career how many do you have to accomplish all you want?  This isn’t rhetorical.  I mean actually do the math.

Then ask, “Am I spending those days doing what’s most important?  Am I spending that time productively?  Am I spending it with the ones who are most important to me?  Am I making a difference?”

It’s not enough to simply think about it, though.  We need to intentionally engage.

If you knew this was the last year of your life what would you do differently?

We imagine we would live in a frenzy.  But I bet we wouldn’t.

I think we’d slow down and enjoy each day a lot more.

We would enjoy that glorious spring morning and the surprise of the new flowers.  We would spend more time gazing at the long glow of sunset on a summer evening.  We would pause in wonder at the smell of a fire burning as the leaves turn gold in autumn.  We would enjoy the delight of good friends gathered in the warmth of our home on a cold winter night.

We would turn off the TV so we could spend time talking with our spouse and children.  We would savor each bite of dinner as we relax with good friends.  Unhurriedly, we would do those important tasks we’ve been putting off.

No, I think that last year would be the best year of our life as we lived it intentionally.  Savoring it.

Two verses later the psalmist writes, “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.” (Psalm 90:14, NIV)

That is the gift of a life lived intentionally.

When both my parents died within nine months of each other in the grief I stopped and reassessed.  I asked the questions I talk about above.

I began living more intentionally than I ever had before.  I launched into things I’d been putting off.  I slowed down to enjoy the ones I love.  I made decisions not to waste anymore time.  And I’m enjoying life now more than ever.

What sets me free to think about this though, in an ironic way, is thinking about the life to come.

Because of that hope I can honestly look at life now without fear.  Assess it.  And intentionally live it.

The same psalm says, “God, it seems you’ve been our home forever.” (Psalm 90:1, The Message)

Isn’t that what releases us?  The hope that God will be our home forever.  Life, thankfully, is not just about this life.  It gets better.  While we’re here God is our home.  When we leave this life he is still our home.

And we don’t need to be some super religious person to attain it.  I’m glad of that.

Simply accept it.

Today, this gives me comfort I will see Bill again.

I grieve for our talks.  I grieve that my friend won’t stop by.  But I don’t grieve for him.  He’s home.  And we’ll catch up before you know it.

If you had one year to live how would you live it?  Let me know.  I’d love to hear.

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  1. Susan Millard says:

    Hi Doug,
    I awoke early this morning and realized I had never closed out or monitored Bill’s e-mail account since his passing. I came upon your blog and read with gratitude your mention of Bill in your blog. It was a “gift” to me this morning.
    I need to make an appointment with you to discuss Bill’s investments, etc. I will do that soon.
    Thank you again for your thoughts on living an intentional life. I, too, know where Bill is and I look forward to joining him there when I am called home!
    With Blessings,

  2. Doug Armey says:


    Thanks. Bill was a special guy. It was my joy to know him. I felt it was a tribute to him he would appreciate as well as passing on the wisdom.