Doctor Asks Dying Children What Gives Their Life Meaning, and Their Answers May Surprise You

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It can be so easy to get bogged down in the everyday stresses and minutia of life and lose sight of what really matters — what our purpose is here in this world. But one group of very special children is here to remind us about the true meaning of life.

Recently, Dr. Alastair McAlpine, a pediatrician from Cape Town, South Africa who specializes in palliative (end of life) care, interviewed his young patients about what they had enjoyed most in life and what gave their lives the most meaning. And this past Thursday, McAlpine shared their answers in a viral Twitter thread that will inspire you at the same time that it will break your heart.

Spoiler: It has nothing to do with how many “likes” you got on your latest Instagram post, whether you have the most expensive electronic gadget, how much you’ve excelled at your career, or anything like that. In fact, McAlpine notes at the beginning of the thread that the things that mattered most to these kids had little to do with what “kids these days” seem most focused on.

“NONE said they wished they’d watched more TV,” writes McAlpine. “NONE said they should’ve spent more time on Face Book.”

So what were the things these young children had the fondest and most long-lasting memories of?

“Many mentioned their pets,” says McAlpine. The comfort and unconditional love of pets can mean the world to all of us, but “creature comforts” are especially soothing to children who are scared or in pain.

It also seems that real-life interaction (again, rather than interaction with electronics or social media) was of most importance to these kids. Besides pets, the kids mentioned their parents — and not just in a general sense. These kids felt deep compassion for their parents, and expressed concern about how their parents might fare without them.

(Here’s a tissue. Scratch that: Take the whole box.)

Speaking of parents, the children mentioned having vivid and lasting memories of being read to by their moms and dads. Yep, real, old-fashioned books.

“Harry Potter made me feel brave,” said one child.

“’I want to be a great detective like Sherlock Holmes when I’m better!” said another.

The kids also mentioned valuing their friendships with other children. But they were quick to point out that the friendships they remembered most were the ones that made them feel loved and accepted, and where judgment was pushed to the wayside.

“My real friends didn’t care when my hair fell out,” said one child.

Break. My. Heart. These kids are amazing, wise, and so very brave.

In general, the kids cited kindness from others as a top character trait, and one that they cherished most — much more than if someone was smart, wealthy, or anything having to do with status quo.

Kindness needs to be balanced with a little humor, too. Laughter is definitely good for the heart, and the body as well. And hey, even fart jokes count!

And of course, nothing beats family. Or hugs from your favorite family members (hint: sister hugs are the BEST).

And finally, the list would not be complete without the most important item of all. Yep, you guessed it: ICE CREAM. Each and every child mentioned ice cream as something that they couldn’t live without. And we wholeheartedly concur! Life isn’t complete without a nice big bowl of mint chocolate chip with hot fudge (just sayin’).

So what’s the takeaway here? Don’t sweat the small stuff, focus on what really matters, and try to prioritize real-life human interactions whenever possible.

As McAlpine sums it up in his final tweet: “Be kind. Read more books. Spend time with your family. Crack jokes. Go to the beach. Hug your dog. Tell that special person you love them.”

Oh, and eat as much damn ice cream as you please. Life’s too short not to.

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