Phil recently phoned a woman who’d cleaned our house in Newport, RI, to see if she was available to tidy up after the tenants vacated (and before the new renters arrived). "It’s that time of year again," he said after pleasantries were exchanged. She paused for a moment, then responded, "Well, I’m not cleaning houses anymore. I have inoperable cancer."
HOW DO YOU EVEN RESPOND TO THAT?
Do you sigh, apologize, let on in some way that you know they’re going to die? Do you address it? Ask how her family is doing? "Gosh, I’m so sorry to hear that. If there’s anything I can do… I certainly wish you and your family the best…" What do you say?
It of course got me to thinking, not just about decorum but about death. Then I played the "if only" game. "If I only had five years to live (and knew it) what would I do differently?"
Here are the notes from my handwritten journal (which means I felt them at the time): It’s a circumstance that says, "This is your last chance. What are you waiting for?" I think the key to answering that, for me, is doing whatever I could to experience the broadest range of emotions and circumstances. I’d move. I’d travel. I might divorce and even remarry. Or maybe renew my vows. Something to recreate the emotions and excitement that come with falling in love. Make videos for my children on different topics, offering unconventional wisdom. I’d spend time with family more, let everyone know I loved them, assigning each of them a song. Tell them each time they hear it after I’m gone will let them know everything is going to be okay. We don’t want to be forgotten. I think it’s one of our biggest fears.
I want to touch lives. I want to feel alive. And for me, that means seeing many things, trying new things, and living out loud, even if it’s sloppy. I want imperfection, highs and lows. For my heart to break, only for it to soar with joy it’s never before known. We all want to leave our mark on this world, to contribute, to change the lives of others. Legacy. I’d want to make certain my children were emboldened to live their best most courageous lives, following their passions and hearts, and knowing that they can never go wrong with the truth.