Life is short, ‘what we can control is how we live’

imageWe all get those emails from the University announcing that someone affiliated with the school has died. When someone such as Rev. Monsignor James Cafone, who spent 43 years at Seton Hall as a faculty member and administrator, passes away, people tend to notice. An email was sent out Wednesday afternoon informing the school’s community of Cafone’s death. Normally though? Most people probably pay little attention to those emails. Most people are probably unaware that last Friday, Feb. 20, Mary Shubeck passed away. When I get those emails, I take a look. I try to read them over and learn a thing or two about the person who died.

I did not know Shubeck, but after reading the message I knew that her son, Thomas Shubeck, is director of Psychological Services at the Seminary, a member of the Seton Hall community, and that made Mrs. Shubeck a member of this community too. I read the emails because the older I get, the more conscious I become of the fact that we are all terminal. That sounds morbid, but it is true. We are all going to die sooner or later.

I have been fortunate enough in my life to never lose anyone close to me. I know that is going to change at some point, and then happen again… and again… and… Still, for whatever reason, death hits me pretty hard. When I hear about someone’s friend, family member or just a stranger affiliated with Seton Hall dying, it gets to me. When someone famous dies I pay attention. I start thinking. I reflect. Not because I feel or act like I knew those people, but because when someone, especially someone who is relatable, bites the dust it is a reminder that we are all vulnerable and that life is short.

As a huge sports fan and aspiring journalist who wants to work in the industry, I was blown away to learn that ESPN anchor Stuart Scott had passed away in January after a long battle with cancer. He was only 49. Scott was without a doubt the liveliest, most energetic, spirited man to ever grace a SportsCenter set. Not even 50 years old, and he’s gone. So what is the point I am trying to get at?

Despite the grim first few paragraphs of this column, the point is not to bum readers out about their inevitable deaths. Instead, I hope these words serve as a reminder to live life with purpose and meaning.

“When you die, that does not mean you lose to cancer,” Scott said last July, speaking at the ESPY Awards. “You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and the manner in which you live.”

Scott certainly meant what he said, living a life that changed sports, revolutionized broadcasting and inspired countless people both before and after his diagnosis. Cancer or not, those are words that can inspired anyone. We do not get to see the expiration date on ourselves. For some it is 49 years; for others it could be 90. People have died much younger and much older.

I probably sound like a middle-aged man right now, but in actuality I am a 20-year-old sophomore. No, I am not going through a mid-life crisis. I just happen to be mindful. To be clear, I am not worried about dying anytime soon. I have no control over it. No one does.

What we can control is how we live. We should do what makes us happy. We should spend time with those we care about. We should try to make an impact on the world around us, even if it is on just one person. If we can, we should do right by others. We should not waste our time when we have no idea how much time we have left. Life is short. Live it to the fullest.

Gary Phillips is a sophomore journalism major from Ramsey, N.J. He can be reached at gary.

Author: Gary Phillips

Gary Phillips is a journalism major at Seton Hall University where he serves as Editor-in-Chief of The Setonian. In addition, Phillips is also a columnist at FanRag Sports and a contributing writer for Jets Wire. He has also interned at CNBC and The Bergen Record and written for Bleacher Report and Double G Sports, in addition to freelance work. You can follow Phillips on Twitter @GaryHPhillips and see all of his work at

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