Are we busy living, or just staying alive? Did this summer make a difference? Was there a message in a book that finally became clear? Did we have life-glorifying experiences? Was there a shift in attitude that made us happier?

It occurred to me that fear of death robs us of happiness. So does regretting the past and worrying about the future. I mean, we were created to be intelligent enough to be tortured by our own mortality. And people call this intelligent design?

I always thought having knowledge of your ultimate death was the ultimate bummer, until I read a book this summer. It was a biography of golfing great Bobby Jones and the last part really grabbed me. After Jones retired from golf, a one-in-a-million disease progressively paralyzed him.

By the time this great athlete was 43, he was confined to a wheelchair. One morning Jones got out of bed and forgot his legs were paralyzed. He fell flat on his face. He pounded his fists on the floor in anger and frustration. He said that he wished he could die. But he knew he couldn’t die, so he decided to make the best of the situation, the same way he used to overcome bad breaks on the golf course.

I don’t cry often but I had tears streaming down my face, because I wasn’t only thinking of the bravery of Bobby Jones. I thought of our own Pastor Tom Holmes, who stoically faces a similar disease. Tom swims laps at the pool to keep his strength up. I thought of my friend who overcame paralysis to become a doctor and writer. And I could picture in my mind the wheelchair-bound man I had just met on a boat, who loved how the motion of the waves made him feel free.

You know how, after you cry, you think more clearly? All of a sudden, I didn’t fear death anymore. I just wanted to be like the people I knew and read about, who had been dealt bad hands but played them cheerfully.

As for life-glorifying experiences, we found them here in Forest Park, in Ireland and in downtown Chicago. I know “Groovin’ in the Grove” might not sound like the hippest event but I try not to miss these concerts. The last show I saw featured the Chicago Playboys; a rhythm and blues band that sounded so good that I bought one of their CD’s.

I wasn’t alone in my enthusiasm. A crowd of Forest Parkers danced on the grass in front of the stage. At one point, the entire group was doing the Electric Slide. It was a better atmosphere than most weddings. Plus, I heard some great stories: a Forest Park woman told me how she overcame personal tragedy to carve out a great life for her husband and children.

I also found happiness at the lakefront, watching jets soar and taking a free boat ride thanks to a gift we received in Forest Park. I had waves of joy coming over me and they weren’t chemically induced. John Lennon said it best: I was living on borrowed time, with no thought for tomorrow.

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.