Three days ago, I was standing in the surf when the lifeguards pulled his limp body from the water.

It was about two in the afternoon. The day was warm, the water chill, the sky and sea blue as parrot feathers. The air smelled of coconut sun block. In the distance, a stereo boomed a Taylor Swift song.

The lifeguards began CPR. When they turned his head to the side, some water came out. A few feet from me, a lifeguard blocked a young woman from coming closer. "He's my husband!" she screamed. A toddler, clung tight to her leg, sobbing.

Compressions, mouth-to-mouth, pause.

Compressions, mouth-to-mouth, pause.

My own children, attracted by the commotion, swam closer. My wife ran around to the side, whisked them away, but not before they'd seen the man with the gray skin lying motionless on the wet sand.

EMTs ran up, one carrying a defibrillator. They slapped electrode to his chest, started counting in unison aloud.

Compressions, step back, silence.

Compressions, step back, silence.

With each repetition, awareness dawned that this wouldn't be like in the movies. No miracle, no celebration.

After a few minutes, a wide-wheeled pickup with a stretcher bed sped across the sand. They gently lifted the body into the truck, beckoned the wife who climbed up beside him.

A lifeguard carried the child away, holding its sobbing head against her shoulder. Then everything was silent except for the lap of sheltered ocean on white sand.

My son was hugging his legs. My daughter looked confused, not really understanding what had just happened. My wife whispered the Lord's prayer.

As tried to think of something to say, the proverb "Live each day as if it were your last" came to my mind.

I'd always thought it was terrible advice. Who in their right mind would spend their last day on earth taking care of business or working towards a long-term goal?

In that moment I realized that the proverb isn't about death at all. It's about feeling grateful each precious moment of your life.