Monday, May 27, 2013

If This Moment Were Your Last

An acquaintance recently shared the last words of her good friend. The friend, thirty-two, had risen early on a misty morning, was enjoying a cup of coffee and a beautiful sunrise. He said he imagined heaven would be much like this. Then he left for his morning run. He never came back. On the run he suffered a heart attack and went into cardiac arrest. Those were his last moments on this earth.

I don’t think it’s true what people say. I don’t think, given twenty-four hours, one would go skydiving, spend the entirety of his or her bank account, or fly to Vegas to go out in some drunken, crazed, gambling spree bedded down with an odd assortment of Elvis impersonators and plumage-covered dancing girls.

I don’t see panic. I see almost a nesting, the sort that happens right before birth. I see gathering loved ones, making sure everything is in order, preparing for a life that’s different, not bad, just different. And not just for the one who is leaving, but for the one who is left. Who are you without me? What is your life without mine?

The truth is, though, that death does not come as does an eviction notice. It does not come with orders to ready oneself and to get out, leaving time to pack boxes, wrap the fragile, and say our goodbyes. It comes quietly when least expected, leaving us with dishes in the sink, emails left unanswered, and arguments yet to finish. It comes on a bad hair day, when we step out of the house in those sweats we’ve had since freshman year in college, and on the day we somehow forgot to apply the mascara. I put on nice underwear every morning. Just in case. One friend wants to go out without her bra. “I refuse to die in that contraption!” Lord help me if I go out without mine.

I know I make light of a serious issue. The fact is, though, that we do not get to choose. This very moment may be our last. You reading my words, or me penning a simple thought. Death. A side effect of birth. Because we breathe, we will die. Fact.

I am not much a fan of the maxim to live each day as if it were your last. That, to me, is exhausting. I imagine days spent on safaris in the middle of African jungles, trekking mountains, whitewater rafting, jetting across the world to some exotic locale. I see meals and meals of rich and delicious desserts and drinks and beautiful, seasonal local specialties. I picture alienating everyone I know because of such wretchedly inexcusable behavior, ending up alone and lonely and sniveling in some corner, wondering when I might see an end to the agony and a bit of relief. I am not a fan of this. But I am a fan of savoring each moment as if it were my last.

If this moment were my last, this is what it would look like. I am sitting quietly in my kitchen, feet up, wine in hand, penning the essay you currently read. Over my lap is a blanket crocheted by my mother. The lights are dimmed, the candles spill a woodsy spice into the air, and Emmylou pours a little soft gospel into my ears. My daughter sits in the adjoining room, headphones on while she works a brain game on her computer. Neither of us speak. The white of the Christmas lights are twinkling on the plants in the corners even though it is somewhere near the end of May, beginning of June. My dogs lie at my feet, snoring and making old dog sounds. I am coming to terms in my head with some choices I have made in my life and some choices I am making still. If this moment were my last, I would leave this earth with a full heart and a contentment beyond that which I can describe.

If I had to guess, I imagine heaven is just one giant library, books as far as the eye can see. A cup of hot cocoa. A cozy blanket. Soft music filling the air.

If I knew this were my last hour, I would gather those who mean the most to me. We would build a fire, pour some wine, and turn to where our bookmarks reminded us that we had left off. We’d sit quietly, each engrossed in our own versions of reality, our own stories of romance or mystery or high-class crime. There might be chocolate. There definitely would be music. And candles. Lots of candles. Occasionally, someone would chuckle or wipe a tear or let out an exclamation of surprise. Someone would pour us each another glass. I would comment at some point how glad I was that we could all be together, that I enjoyed the company immensely, and that I imagine if, indeed, there were a heaven it would definitely be much like this.

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