“Dad, how long do we live?”
Since Paul was a teacher of philosophy at the local community college he was impressed by his son’s question. But he had to hesitate before answering. His training to teach had long since ingrained in him the technique of when you don’t have an answer to a question, which by itself elevates the question to a higher level of importance, all you have to do is answer a question with another question. So although he was tempted to answer Stephen’s question with something pithy like “How long do you want to live?,” he saved that type of answer for his students.
“Why do you ask?” he couldn’t resist the temptation to get more information from Stephen before committing to an answer.
“Well, I want to live a long time, and so I wanted to know about how long most people live? 65, 80, a 100.?”
“Well, you live as long as you’re supposed to live. For some it’s going to be shorter for others longer, but there’s one thing for sure.”
“You will be dead for a much longer time.”
“What, why would you say that?”
“Because you will. Think about it, when you die, whatever happens, if you go to heaven or if you become like a rock and have no conscience or ability to feel things around you, it will be a much longer time than you ever lived.”
Okay, so what’s your point? Remember, I just wanted to know how long most people normally live.”
“Stephen the point I am trying to make is that the way you live your life, the impact you have on others, determines how long you live, whether or not you are actually alive. Your good deeds and memorable choices and decisions in life can actually extend your lifetime well beyond your time of death.”
“Ummm, so some examples of that would be Lincoln, Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Aristotle, Jesus.”
“There you go. Now you’re getting what I’m talking about.”
“So how do we live so that we outlive ourselves after we die?”
“Stephen, where in the world are you getting all these questions from?”
“From mom,” Stephen whispered.
Paul stopped and lost his breath. He just looked at Stephen and held back the tears. Instead he reached over and touched his arm. Touching someone else when YOU feel like crying for yourself was how Paul stopped the tears from coming. Angie, Paul’s wife, Stephen’s beautiful mom, had been dead for three years and she was already proving Paul’s theory on death to be true. Father and son smiled at one another and changed the subject to sports.