The other day after Zumba, one of my workout friends told me about a friend of hers who recently died in her sleep. Her body wasn’t discovered until four days after she passed on. She was 71 and had four sons, but was living alone.
My friend was shaken because she’s not that much younger than her friend. Also, her friend had shown no signs of failing health and was “perfectly fine” when they met up for lunch the previous week. Shouldn’t there be signs when one’s time is coming to a close?
Every now and then, the songs that play on my Pandora station or radio seem to contain a message from the Universe. For example, lines from a song by Anything Box keep playing in my head: “Don’t take for granted / this thing called Life.” In the context of my friend’s news, I realize how unprepared I am if I were to die suddenly, that I need to be more mindful of how I spend my days, and that I need take care of a few things sooner vs. later. After all, there’s no guarantee that I’ll reach the average US female life expectancy of age 78.94.
Here are some things that come to mind:
Last Will/Testament and Instructions. I’m not rolling in the dough, but I have a little bit saved up and a few keepsakes which I’d like to make sure certain people get. I also need to make sure my daughter/husband are provided for (life insurance), leave instructions on how to handle my remains (donate organs/cremation), list important items and where they are (including login/passwords). I should also provide a reminder list of odds and ends, such as how I handle the household finances (scheduling payments, etc.) and my cooking/baking secrets.
Letters/Notes/Keepsakes. I’ve also been thinking about writing letters to my loved ones and listing all the ways they have made my life more meaningful and what they’ve taught me. I’ll also list my fond memories about them, as well as ask for forgiveness for the times I’ve let them down, disappointed them, or hurt them with my words/actions (or lack thereof). As much as I would like to tell off some people who upset me, I would rather concentrate my energy on positive things.
Toss Out Rubbish/Let Go. One of my to-do items is to get rid of things that would pose an embarrassment to me or cause my family to curse my name for leaving behind so much crap. This is one of the toughest things for me as a packrat/upcycling artist. Nevertheless, starting today I’m going to be ruthless about clearing out stuff. (Let’s see how long that lasts. ;-P)
Bucket List. When I think of mortality, I think of how important it is to live with intention. Too often we go through days like automatons—eat, sleep, work, repeat—and before we know it, we’re too weak and tired to do much of anything else except regret not doing more while we were younger and had more energy.
A bucket list doesn’t have to have only grandiose, over-the-top plans. It could also include small gestures, mini-challenges to get out of the rut of mindless existing. If anything, a bucket list can help one get outside from one’s comfort zone as well as remember there’s more to life than going from one day to the next.
Some words of wisdom come to mind as I channel my older/wiser self: “Live fearlessly and passionately. Don’t be afraid to fail or make a fool of yourself. Live with gusto. Don’t postpone living for a day that might not come. Make that trip. Splurge once in a while. Spend time with people who bring you joy and raise your spirit. Bring light to at least one person each day.”
What can you do to bring meaning to your life? Do it.