Last year I literally watched a woman live the last year of her life, as she passed away on New Year’s Eve and, although I did not know her very well, her death has had quite an impact on me. Since her passing I have tried to recount each and every conversation, no matter how small, that I had with her. There were not many, since as her illness progressed, I saw her less and less. They were everyday exchanges, a few about her health, but mostly about her family – her children’s activities, crazy schedules, what’s for dinner – the usual.
In many ways it was so remarkably unremarkable that she just seemed to slip away. I’m sure that wasn’t the case for her and certainly not her family, but for those of us on the outside looking in – casual acquaintances – it was seamless. Here and then gone.
The question I want to put to you is: If you knew that you were living the last year of your life, what would you do differently? Would you throw caution to the wind and do everything that you had never dared to do? Every reckless dream and unbridled fantasy? Would you travel to every destination that you’d never visited, but always wanted to? Would you try to check all of the remaining items off of your bucket list, if you have one?
It always scares me when I hear stories about people who lived this scenario and realized that everything they had done in their life left them filled them with regret. Maybe they realized that they had married the wrong person or spent too much time in a unfulfilling career. Maybe they had told themselves that they never wanted children so they didn’t have any, only to be faced with the truth that they wanted to be parents, but it was too late. Or the opposite, they had become parents but in the end wanted to be free of the responsibility.
It’s a scenario that I pray I never have to live out, but can’t help but wonder “what if?”. After some thought and reflection (mostly on this sweet lady and the family that she leaves behind) I concluded that there are a few things about that I would change.
I would focus more on the moment. Put the phone down, turn off the television, close my book and just listen to every silly and nonsensical story or anecdote my children have to tell me. My husband’s work stories included, because it’s always the words that seem so insignificant that leave the biggest impression. Not to mention that I happen to live with some of the funniest, most imaginative and interesting people. They make my life beautiful and it’s the least that I can do.
I would push fear and doubt away. In the past 6 months I can’t tell you how many blog posts and articles I have written and been too afraid to publish. I don’t know when or why it happened, but suddenly I hated everything I wrote and was sure that you would, too. I think most of us struggle with feeling insignificant from time to time (especially women), but that’s a demon which threatens to derail and destroy anything good that we have to offer. I need to remember that and move forward.
I would choose to be content. It’s not that I’m unhappy, but like so many others, I often wish for more – more money, more clothes, more shoes, more vacations, more furniture, more gadgets, more. more, more. The truth is that I am well-loved by my family and friends and I have more than enough stuff. Choosing to be content is choosing gratitude and I am blessed beyond measure. The idea that more can lead to some sort of fulfillment is a trap set by a society that feeds off of discontent.
Obviously all of these things I can (and will) do right now, but tell me, what would you change if you were living your last year?