Stephen King is one of my favorite authors although I’ve only read 25 or so of the 75 books and a handful of the hundreds of short stories he’s written. I recently started his massive [800+ pages] 2011 novel 11.22.63.  Like most of Mr. King’s work, 11.22.63 is an easy and exciting read.

Like his 1979 novel The Dead Zone, knowledge of past and future events is central to the story.  In The Dead Zone, Mr. King poses the question:  if you knew today that someone would have a hugely negative impact on life in the future, would you take it upon yourself to eliminate that person?  In 11.22.63, Mr. King poses the question:  if you could travel back in time, would you attempt to alter history with the belief that in doing so, you would make the world a better place to be? 

In The Dead Zone, the protagonist Johnny Smith ‘knows’ that a future U.S. President will be responsible for a nuclear WWIII, and he sets out to prevent him from becoming President.  In 11.22.63, our protagonist, Jake Epping travels back in time to prevent the assassination of JFK believing that if he is successful, he will create a better future.  No more spoilers.

James Franco as Jake Epping

My oldest son is a Stephen King fan, and he told me a movie was made of 11.22.63 starring James Franco who is one of my favorite actors.  I streamed it last week and found it thoroughly enjoyable.  Watching the film does not distract me from reading the book.  The final scene is memorable…

Our protagonist Jake Epping shares a dance with a librarian, Sadie, whom he met in the 60s.  The time is present, and Sadie is now 80 years old.

“Have you had a happy life?” Jake asks Sadie.

“Yes,” she replies, “I do work that matters.  I love all the people in my life.  I have a dog.  My life has had its challenges, but yes, I am very happy.”

The scene was beautifully constructed by scriptwriter Bridget Carpenter, and it continues to replay in my mind.

As I watch it over and over again, I consider it an excellent definition of a life well-lived…

  • Doing things that matter
  • Loving the people in your life
  • Owning a dog
  • Acknowledging the challenges you’ve faced and overcome.

Consider your life in a moment of silence relative to Sadie’s answer.  I hope your life has been as fulfilling as hers.

“An authentic faith… always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit [values] and to leave the earth somehow better than we found it.”

Jorge Bergoglio, Pope Francis

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  1. I like what Pope Francis says. One verse at the end of Ecclesiastes also came to mind in Ecclesiastes 12:13: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: ‘Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.'”

    1. I am one of those people who cannot separate ‘happy lives’ from ‘dogs.’ I have faced many situations that would have been more difficult to confront without a dog at my side.

    1. As cancer combatants, you and I both understand the validity of your comment. Cancer or not, it’s always good to take stock of your life by asking that simple question, “Have I had a happy life?” Whether the answer is a clear yes or no, each of us has something to be grateful for. Each of us has done something in our lives that matters, and each of us loves the people in our lives.