“Life is brief and tender. Thinking about death clarifies our life.”—Candy Chang
Death may seem closer as we age, but the truth is that any of us could die at any time with no warning and no time to do the things that we truly want to do, want to give, want to say. . .
Last month, I went to a retreat center with several women friends, where we had an opportunity to write on a huge outdoor chalkboard, “BEFORE I DIE I Want to. . .” *
It gave me pause for reflection. What if this day, this moment were my last? Would I choose to experience it differently? I realized that while there are things on my list that I would love to do, and I hope that I have time to do them, overall I feel peaceful and happy with my life as it is.
This story is an inspiring way to live: One day, as St. Anthony was hoeing in his garden, someone came up to him and asked: “What would you do if you were told that you would die tomorrow? Without hesitation, he replied: “I would continue hoeing in my garden.”
Thinking about death, calmly accepting that all that I am and all that I have could be gone in a moment has become a way for me to check in to the present moment and ask whether I am happy and content with what I am doing or with whom I am with NOW.
My partner Francesco, who experienced a death consciousness at an early age due to the loss of his father and several friends, created a sense of urgency to live his life exactly as he wants to. He asks himself: “How and with whom do I want to spend my precious, finite time? Am I living my passion? If the answer is no, then how can I change my life so that I am living in my truth?”
While I can’t recall being fearful of dying, I do experience angst over the thought of losing someone I love, especially my parents who are now in their late 80s. I can’t imagine a world without them, nor of those I hold dear in my heart. But all I can really do is live fully in the moment and be grateful for every single day.
When I become aware of my own mortality I become more appreciative of each person, place, and experience. I am intentional about letting those I love know how much I care about them. I live more in the moment when I stop my busy mind to savor a gentle breeze, listen to a bird singing, and tend my life’s garden.
And I try to pay more attention to how I engage with each person on a daily basis, whether someone I know or a stranger, asking myself:
What if this were the last time I saw this person…is this how I would want to leave them? If not, how can I express a little loving kindness?
I try to make each day the best one that I can.
Would you have any regrets if you were to die today? If so, what would be the one thing you would wish that you had done? What would it take to do it now?
Author’s note: The original “Before I Die I Want to . . .” wall was created by artist Candy Chang on an abandoned house in New Orleans after she lost someone she loved. Since then, over 2,000 Before I Die walls have been created in over 70 countries. Each wall is a tribute to living an examined life. To participate, visit http://loveisthenewcurrency.com/before-i-die/ and go to the end of the article where there is a place inviting you to comment and add to the list.
Linda Commito, author, speaker, entrepreneur, consultant and teacher, is passionate about her vision to leave this world a kinder, more loving, and interconnected place. Her award-winning book of inspirational stories, Love is the New Currency, demonstrates how we can each make an extraordinary difference in the lives of others through simple acts of love and kindness. Linda believes that in order to inspire a kinder world the place to start is with children. She recently volunteered at a Title One elementary school, working with over 500 students, to create and facilitate “Kindness Starts With Me,” the results of which include a website (www.kindnessstartswithme.com) and a book for children. Also visit www.loveisthenewcurrency.com for more information and/or to sign up for an uplifting monthly newsletter.