Recently I have been made aware of just how short life can be and the importance of living life to the fullest. As the years go by, the more you realize that happiness takes work. At times it takes strength and courage to smile through the tears. It’s so easy to look at people who are happy and feel they don’t understand the pain you are going through. People who can smile and put on that happy face have been through as much as people who cry, scream and frown.

I lost a dear friend to cancer last week and regret not spending more time with her or calling her more often. Yesterday I found out some friends at church faced the tragedy of losing their precious four-year-old son. I can’t even imagine the heartache this family is going through. At work my very dear friend’s and co-worker’s sister is battling stage IV cancer. The hurt and uncertainty I see her and her family facing every day breaks my heart.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible says, “For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” Romans 14:8.

There are certain things you need to do to live life to the fullest. One of my biggest is put God first. Only He knows when we are to be born and when we will die. Next on my list is “Tell people you love them.” That could be a spouse, child, grandchild, parent, relative or friend. Everyone can truly appreciate hearing that you love them. At times it can brighten their day. Next, do something good for someone else. Don’t just say I wish I could help. Do something about it. Often, we see homeless people on the street. Have you ever thought if you gave that person $1 every day that you would only be $365 in an entire year? It doesn’t take a lot. Sometimes we are so absorbed with what we have and what we want that we forget about those in need.

Next on my list is to live in the present. You can think about your past and your future, but you need to live in the present. Your past is to learn from and your future is something to work towards, but what exists now is the present. Don’t compromise your values is another thing of great importance to me. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Trust your instincts. Your ethics don’t need to be compromised. Whatever you do always be able to look yourself in the mirror and be proud of the person you are.

In life you sometimes must take risks – sometimes a lot of them. Every reward in life carries a risk with it. When you look back on your life, don’t regret the chances that you didn’t take. If you don’t take some risks, you will never get anywhere. Always keep an open mind, but be willing to listen. You may think you are right, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to look at a situation.

Find time to spend with others. People have no time anymore to call their family and friends and to spend time with them, but can waste hours of their valuable time online – on Facebook, playing games, checking messages. I once read a quote that said, “It is not the years in your life but the life in your years that counts.”

These are just a few of the things on my list. I am sure I could name many more. Going forward cherish your loved ones, hug your child a little tighter and a little longer. Take time for those that really matter. Life is too short and none of us is guaranteed tomorrow.

Cheryl S. Carter regularly writes on a variety of topics for the community. This article was originally published by the Culpeper Star Exponent on 1/21/18.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash