There was an old ill man lying on the hospital bed, reflecting on his life. He shed a tear, only realising that he didn’t live a full life. His time had come.
As a young man, a square four cornered world was all he knew that existed. It comforted him, made him feel safe. He heard others excitedly talk of ‘the outside world’, and of great people and bizarre things that made no sense to him.
He tried to avoid the noise, turned away when others talked of unfamiliar things and focused on what he knew—working.
He didn’t want to let go of what he knew because he was mostly scared to lose physical things. Losing these things meant more to him than gaining what he didn’t—in life experience, possessions, in purpose and self-fulfillment.
Order—he wanted order and control of his square four-cornered world and feared having nothing. But absolute control is rare in anyone, even for the most determined.
He lived like this for years, allowing his work to dictate a linear life.
He worked and worked, rarely stopping to enjoy what he worked for. The enjoyment was seeing his account balance increase.
His family encouraged him to live, to spend, and to “see the world”.
“I’ll save the money for another day” he’d say.
“I’ll use it for another time”
“I can’t afford to use it right now”
“I need it for my future”
When he first lost his job he feared that he’d lose the money he saved. He counted each dollar spent and cried when he couldn’t make that money again.
“I need a job”
So a job he searched for. Months passed and nothing. It maddened him when there was no reply or at the very least a rejection letter. His rage quickly turned to self-disparagement and paranoia.
He found work but was displeased. Unwillingly he worked. But his cash flow increased, that’s what mattered. He soon lost motivation and his job. This cycle would happen 8 more times in his life, and he only questioned his happiness when he was hospitalised for a heart attack.
By then he lost some of his friends and withdrew himself from his family. He became selfish and his relationship with money choked him. He was frugal and couldn’t justify spending his money unless absolutely necessary. He constantly calculated and recalculated numbers in his head. He always thought, “What do I have left after I’ve lost it?”
If he had a phobia, losing money would be his.
On the table next to his hospital bed was an old note. It was a bucket list he had written in his twenties. Few of what was listed had anything to do with money, except the expense attached to trying a new life experience (e.g. skydiving, travelling, hot-air ballooning). Even fewer of these were ticked off and achieved. Too often he struggled with expense and experience—he never defeated it.
When he died he was a millionaire. This is the note he left his family:
They say it’s never too late, but maybe for me it was. I can’t believe my foolishness—I pushed you all away from me just so I could see myself become rich. I let the money beat me, I let it define me, I let myself love it, and it killed me. Now I truly have nothing.
I always believed that I wouldn’t get caught up in materialism, because that’s what I was taught, that’s what we valued as a family—that no physical possession would ever make you truly happy. Yet I tested that fine line of happiness and greed countlessly, and realised too late that physical possessions only made me hungrier, and crave that temporary euphoric feeling. I was chasing something that was never going to be chased.
I apologise to you all for my selfishness and bitterness, for disappointing you and hurting you. I apologise for being blind and failing to see that I already had everything from all of you—your love, your support (through the good and bad), your undying faith in me and your constant presence. I failed to give you the same or appreciate the blessings I already had.
My only wish is that I am no longer associated with the money. Do what you like with, but don’t let it affect you the way it did me. None of you deserve that! I wish you all true happiness and a life of fulfilment. Count your blessings, not your dollars.
I love you all so dearly,
His family counted the dollars and fought over it for months. When they couldn’t make a definite decision between themselves, they donated the money to charity instead.
Count your blessings, not your dollars.