Anyone who says that Jews like to disagree with each other must be someone who doesn’t go to funerals. I don’t think I’ve ever been to one where the officiating rabbi hasn’t said, V’hachai yitein el libo, “And the living shall take it to heart.” At least in this regard, we’re unanimous: Death is meant to teach us about life. Or, in other words, pay attentionDeath is meant to teach us about life to how you’ll inevitably end up, and you won’t make so many mistakes.

I learned this lesson the hard way when I was just 7 years old. I’m not sure what my sister Stephanie and I were doing that February night in 1963 when our grandfather, our mother’s father, called us on the phone. I just remember we were busy. We loved Max (that’s how he wanted us to refer to him), but he called us a lot. That night, we told our mother we didn’t want to talk to him.

What I remember most about the next day is my father’s red eyes when he was explaining to me that Max had been taken to the hospital. “So, he’s not going to get better?” I asked, already knowing the answer. When my father told me Max had passed away, I wanted to disappear from the planet.

My 7-year-old instinct for self-preservation overrode this desire, and instead made a mental note that would be forever posted—no, seared—in my consciousness: You never know.

You can be sure that for the next 10 years, until my grandmother passed away, I would interrupt the most challenging homework assignment or juicy phone conversation so I could kiss her goodbye before she left our house.

Because neither of her parents reached 70, my mother was convinced she was destined for the same fate. “With my genes,” she would sigh whenever the subject turned to longevity, which triggered in me a you-never-know response to be extra nice to her. She eventually stopped saying that—she lived to be 88—but for me, you-never-know-ness has been part of my consciousness for so long that I can’t imagine thinking about life any other way.

Aside from its whiff of morbidity, you-never-know-ness has served me well all these years. It can only be a good thing that I say “I loveI want to share everything sooner rather than later you” a lot and tend not to hold grudges. And if I have a job to do, I do it right away. And now that I write about my spiritual journey, I see every blog post as the one that could potentially bring Moshiach, whose arrival will change everything about life, including death and all the you-never-know-ness surrounding it.

But no matter what, I want to share everything sooner rather than later because until he comes, well, you just never know.