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this could be your last day

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For most it’s normal to start the day with a quick preview of what lies ahead. What are my appointments, dates, commitments? When do I have to be where? What do I have to get done by when and with whom? How am I feeling? How are those aches and pains? Well, you know what I’m saying … routines to get us oriented and underway.

A visit last night to a patient at hospice left me with many impressions. How is he coping, lying there all day and night, unable to get up without a “two-assist”? How does he bear believing that “my life has been one mistake after another”? Where will he find answers to such questions as “will my spirit take along all my baggage when I die?” 

As I write, I’m becoming aware that these lines are phrased as another person’s worries. They are not mine — or are they? What if I were to lie in that bed, with nothing to do between meals I won’t eat, medications I have lost faith in, and the occasional visits from caregivers to disturb my ruminations? The person I visited did not come from another planet, does not belong to a foreign species: that’s me behind the curtain. You as well; all of us.

How would this day be different (and it would be!) if one of today’s appointments arose from a “come and see me” phone call from your doctor? What if within minutes of sitting down in her office you’d learn that the routine blood test had revealed cancer cells thought your body?

How would that change your priorities? What would be of utmost importance?



7 responses »

  1. Some years ago… around the time of the death of a dear friend…I asked that same what if question. I wanted to test how honest I could be with myself. So, I wrote what I called The Exercise… you’ll quickly see pattern that suggests process.

    If, I have only 1 minute to live… what would I do. I put in boundaries…
    No time travel. If it takes 10 minutes to get there, it still takes 10 minutes.
    If it takes a minute to dial a phone (no speed dials then) it still takes a minute.
    And that moment is exactly that moment… no flash forward to a holiday, or
    when people are home from work, or with me on a vacation… no arranging. It is…
    what it is…

    Then… I added a minute — if I had two minutes what would I do.. then 5 minutes… then 10…
    then I jumped to an hour, to three hours, then 6 hours, a day, from a day to three days and then a week, a month… 3 months… 6 months… a year…

    and then I asked…
    how close to the authenticity I described was I living?…
    I had long before decided that the quality of my eternity was not going to be put to popular vote! What disturbed my peace was, was I living as close to the core of my belief as was available to me.

    It has taken some decades…
    A weekly rhythm revealed an underlying dailyness
    It is the daily-ness that bears fruit in such unanticipated ways…

    a daily-ness
    what monks call
    an horarium
    dying and rising…
    every day all over again

    a daily-ness that is amplified
    or contracted depending on mobility
    or ability…

    unceasing prayer…

  2. After writing today’s post I went for a workout at the beach. Whenever I remembered the question, I looked at whatever presented itself: waves smashing against a boulder, dog running after stick, gulls sailing in the wind. I noticed curiosity and slight regret. Then I said good-bye as if for last time. … When i looked again, everything had changed.

  3. Aaagh!!

    Time to go sit.

  4. I think I will try this exercise too…

    Thank you Prayer. Thank you Peter.

  5. This kind of thinking has embedded itself into my daily existence in a way I never thought possible until my son died. I am new to this particular blog and find the thoughts are similar to what my grief therapist taught me while I was going thru the most brutal days. For me, this kind of thinking sometimes blurs the lines between severe depression and spiritual progress.

    • dear Marcelle, i’ve been sitting with your post for a few days and nights. we’re told to stay clear of comparing and still i think your loss is more profound than anything i’ve experienced. as the Jewish blessing goes: May your loss be a blessing to you.


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