Have you ever wondered what you would do if you found out you only had one day to live? Would you live differently?
Perhaps it was the recent, much publicized death of Steve Jobs that brought this to the forefront for me, but lately I have had a number of meaningful conversations with family and friends about this question. This weekend I was involved with a fundraiser for the Art for Cancer Foundation. One of the speakers, Nadia Hohn, a spirited, inspiring young woman, spoke from the heart about how being diagnosed with thyroid cancer in her 20’s impacted her life. Among the many profound insights she shared, she talked about what she would do if she only had one day to live. (You can read more about her insights and experiences on her blog, Blue Butterfly.
That night after the event, my husband and I had a conversation with friends about this question. As you would expect, we all had a slightly different answer, but what was surprising is that we had all thought about it and had some sense of what that day would look like.
So here’s what I came up with. If I only had one day to live, I would want to write a letter to each of my children and my husband, not just to say goodbye but to tell them something about who they are through my eyes and what they have meant to me. I credit this idea to my mother who wrote letters to each of her 13 children. What is most amazing about my mother, aside from having 13 children, is that she wrote them long before she knew she had terminal cancer. She wrote them for birthdays, Christmas, special events, and just because… She also wrote a narrative of her life and created a book of family stories which we all contributed to. Though she died ten years ago, her voice is alive in her letters and stories and they remind me of who I am through my mother’s eyes. She told me what I was like as a child, what was special about me, what was going on in her life at various points of my life, her joys, sorrows and appreciations. For me, these letters and stories have become the heart shaped footprints of my mother’s life.
So if I only had one day to live…and since we never know how long we have to live, it reminds me to live today as if it is my last, and get started on my letters.
And so I ask, “What would you do if you knew you only had one more day to live, or one week, one month or one year?” It is worth contemplating, because someday that is all you will have.
I look forward to hearing what you think…
p.s. I love this quote from Steve Jobs :
“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
Arabia Terra on Mars From NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Image by NASAJPL, on Flickr