I'M SOMETIMES ASKED WHY, back in the early ‘90s, I wrote a book on the death penalty. There were the obvious reasons, from my work as a reporter covering capital murder cases to the resurgence of executions in the United States. But the real reason I wrote the book had nothing to do with anything so complex.
My reason was simple. I wanted to know what it was like to know when you were going to die.
I was never too sympathetic toward any of the inmates I met, but I was intrigued and maybe even a little envious of them. Death Row inmates not only knew when they were going to die, they knew how and why. They knew how many days they had left and what they would do in those final moments. They had time to plan.
There are two key moments in life, moments I call the “Grand Entries.” The first Grand Entry is when we are born – we are not and then suddenly we are, just here, sucking air and frantically trying to figure out what’s going on (this feeling continues long into adulthood.)
We can’t plan for this Grand Entry. We just start living and keep on going until time or circumstance forces us to stop.
Then there is the second Grand Entry. Most of us don't see it until it’s too late. But if we choose, we can enter on our own terms.
We can either live to make a living or live to make a life. We can choose to leave an imprint on the world, to leave a legacy, to get affairs in order and prepare for the second Grand Entry.
We still can’t know when this Grand Entry will happen. But if I learned anything from my time with the denizens of Death Row, it’s that the “when” doesn’t matter if you’re ready to go.
The first Grand Entry is a gift. The second Grand Entry is an opportunity.
Don't waste yours.