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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Petty

APiD Ep. 052 | What Matters Most

Updated: Feb 5, 2022

A Transformative Conversation With the Rev. Dr. Nicole McDonald

Check out the full transcript here...


When push comes to shove, what really matters most to you in this life?

That may be the most important question any of us can ask ourselves. And getting the answer right may be more important than almost anything else on this side of the grave.

My guest on this episode shares a perspective on what matters most that she's acquired from almost two decades on the front lines of end-of-life care.

I think ALL of us need to hear what she has to say so we can evaluate and calibrate our priorities before the grim reaper comes a'calling.

Fair warning: My guest's message to us is delivered in the context of stories from her experiences serving those who are dying. Some of her stories are inherently heartwarming, but one story in particular is harder to hear. I think BOTH kinds of stories are invaluable in their ability to help us truly and courageously confront our own Mortality so that we're motivated to live with guts, gusto, and abandon right NOW. So that we don't keep putting off the things that matter most until the ever-elusive "tomorrow."

I hope that you'll tune into the full episode. This conversation impacted me deeply. But I wanted you to know in advance what to expect so you can make your own decision.

Meet Rev. Dr. Nicole McDonald

The Reverend Dr. Nicole McDonald is a native of Hampton, VA, and she's by far the most highly-educated guest I've ever had on this show. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, a Master of Divinity degree, a Master of Science in Patient Counseling, and a Doctor of Ministry degree. Currently, Nicole is a PhD student in African American Preaching and Sacred Rhetoric.

And somehow, in the midst of all of that academic work, Nicole was also able to serve as a hospice chaplain for 13 years--providing emotional and spiritual support to patients living with terminal illnesses.

Today, she serves as a Bereavement Coordinator & Chaplain for Sentara Hospice in Newport News, VA.

Nicole's degrees and experience certainly lend her a certain kind of credibility right out of the gate. But behind all of the impressive academic accomplishments and professional experience is a woman deeply interested in the human condition, in what it truly means to live and die well, in helping the dying transition well, and a woman deeply committed to not only imparting what she's learned to others but embodying it in her own life, too. And I think you'll agree that, in the final analysis, those qualities are a form of credibility that rival any other.

Highlights From This Episode

We hit on a lot of big topics in a relatively short conversation, including:

  • The intrinsic value of every human life

  • The surprising reality of how many “religious” people relate to Death

  • The difference between a “good death” and a “bad death”

  • You hardwired relationship between how we live and how we die

  • How to be honest with ourselves about our health

  • The importance of life insurance

  • And what matters most in this life, in the final analysis: our relationships. According to Nicole, “Your relationships are your biggest asset, so treat them as such.”

Making the Most of What Matters Most

"Your relationships are your biggest asset, so treat them as such."

That's how Nicole summed up the one thing that she hopes we take away from her Story and her experience.

Our relationships are the most important thing in life and the only thing left when we die.

You can envision your relationships as a series of concentric circles. Think of it as your Relationship Radar screen. At the very center is you. Circles closer to the center represent relationships that are more important to you, and circles farther from the center represent relationships that are less important to you, relatively speaking. Plot the initials of the person with whom you have your most important relationship on the first circle. For some of you, that will be a spouse or partner or maybe your closest friend. For others of you, that might be a parent or child. Whoever it is, though, force yourself to pick just one relationship for that first circle. Then, plot more initials on the other circles moving outward from the center, from more to less importance, relatively speaking.

Next, consider the condition of the relationship that occupies the first circle on your Relationship Radar Screen. What shape is it in? Where is it thriving? Where is it languishing? And what can you do about it? Give this relationship absolute top priority in terms of how you focus your time, energy, and attention. Continue your evaluation of the relationships in each circle moving outward from there. What condition are they in, and what time, energy, and attention are you willing and able to give to those relationships?

When it's our turn to die, it will be abundantly clear how well we tended to our most important relationships. We can't cram for that exam. We reap then what we're sowing today.

Your relationships are your biggest asset. Are you treating them as such?

Remember, you ARE going to die. But you’re not dead yet. So get after it!

I’d Love to Know…

How did this episode impact your perspective on your relationships?

Message me on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn, visit my website, or email me.

Connect with Nicole: Email

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New to Andrew Petty is Dying?

If you're new to this show, browse the archive of past interviews with fascinating people and short, topical solo episodes--all designed to equip you with the mindset and the means to become the person you were made to be and live the life you were made to live with guts, gusto, and abandon. We flip the script by inviting our ancient foe, Death, to become an unlikely ally in our heroic journey to leave it all out on the field of life. Turns out, Mortality might just be the most potent motivator available--blasting us out of our ambivalence and complacency and toward the fullness of our potential.

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