Excellence Reporter: Jeff, what is the meaning of life?
Jeffery Olsen: I died in 1997. That’s right, I died. I left my body as a result of a horrible automobile accident which crushed both my legs, causing the amputation of my left leg above the knee, along with several other life-threatening injuries, including the seatbelt cutting through my lower abdomen and rupturing my intestines. The most horrific outcome of the accident was the death of my wife and youngest son, who were also in the car and both killed instantly at the scene. The emotional injury of their passing was much worse and far longer lasting than any physical trauma I survived.
Yes, I died in many ways, but I came back. Unfortunately, they did not.
I loved my family. I loved my leg. I loved my life, and I learned so much in the loss of all three. In the moments I was out of my body and had the opportunity to take a peek into what may be next for all of us, there was only one poignant question, “To what degree have I learned to love?” Love is a loaded word and has many different applications, but to what ‘degree’ has even deeper relevance. To what degree do I love the sunrise? To what degree do I love the feel of cool, wet grass on my toes? To what degree do I love fresh air entering my body as I draw breath? To what degree do I love a child or a partner? And perhaps most importantly, to what degree do I love myself and my life?
I have learned that death may be the strongest contributor to giving life meaning. It is only at the end of life that so many of us begin to see with clear eyes. Only then does gratitude for the gift life truly is begin to be realized.
I used to believe that life was a test and something that must be endured. I now embrace life as a spectacular gift where there is awe, wonder and joy in every sacred moment. I see people so differently now. I see them as the divine manifestations of God that they truly are, no matter their circumstances or choices. I see light, the way it dances in the sunset and on the rocks and trees, as a glorious performance of the angels, put on just for me. And I now see me, that divine part of myself, that already knows the way and remembers my true answers.
The meaning of life is simple to me. It is to live. To have every experience and emotion. To enjoy the full feature film, with the popcorn, soda and candy, while honoring the sticky floor and chewing gun under the seat. Every experience is a gift. Even the challenging ones. Especially the challenging ones, those that stretch my soul to greater depths of empathy and compassion. When I ask myself, “To what degree have I learned to love?” life’s experiences become sweeter. I see the opportunities to learn, grow and remember in every situation.
When I embrace the meaning of life as nothing more, and nothing less, than the perfect opportunity to love at deeper degrees, I find that forgiveness becomes freedom, trust becomes peace, and simply being alive becomes divine.
~Jeffery Olsen is a bestselling author who inspires audiences internationally with his intriguing story of perseverance and inner strength. After a horrific automobile accident took the lives of his wife and youngest son, also inflicting multiple life-threatening injuries to Jeff, including the amputation of his left leg, he found the courage to survive over 18 surgeries to eventually heal, both physically and emotionally, to thrive in his career and community contributions.
Jeff has appeared on many national and international television and radio programs sharing his insights. Olsen’s latest book, “Knowing,” is a compilation of his earlier works, yet with even deeper insights and extended chapters, while maintaining the same emotional connection of Olsen’s body of work.
Jeff continues to work as a Creative Director and participates on several Boards including The Wholeness Network, The Clapham Foundation, MyAcre.org and as a World Ambassador for the International Association for Near Death Studies.
Among all of Jeff’s accomplishments, he is most proud of and most fulfilled by simply being a husband, father and friend.
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