If You Had Ten Minutes To Live…

Who would you call?

What would you say?

Why aren’t you doing it?

Most participants in the one day seminar on “Death & Dying” presented by Stephen Levine and Elisabeth Kübler-Ross had instant answers to the first two question. Everyone would call a loved one and say, “I love you.” The passengers on the 9/11 planes did that once they were aware of their fate. However, there was no immediate answer to his third question. “Why aren’t you doing it?” And why aren’t we calling that loved one? Because in our minds we believe there is always a tomorrow.

If life were on a fixed time schedule and if we all knew the moment each of us would die in the same general sense a doctor predicts the birth of a baby, I think we might live our lives differently. I believe that a sense of completion and of having been alive would compel us to fulfill as many of our dreams as possible within the time we are allotted from birth to death. We would have Death Planners to orchestrate our final days exactly as we wish. Discount travel packages would be in order for those approaching the final phase of time. We would approach death as a celebration of the life we have lived because we would have lived every moment knowing when life would end.

Many of us take this precious gift of life for granted. The assumption, especially when we’re young, is that we will live a long time and that we are indestructible. Even those of us who have lost loved ones sometime forget how suddenly this gift of life can be recalled.

In the poem Moments I close with the line:

Each moment would have but one life, never preceded by a memory, never, ever, followed by a wish.

I quote this line because as I grow in age, I find myself living it more. The gift I have been given is life in a physical entity and the only limitation of this entity is time. I will at an unknown point cease to exist as this embodiment I’ve come to know as me. It doesn’t matter if it is ten minutes or ten years. I don’t plan to live my life any differently.

In the twenty years since Stephen asked those three questions. I have become more aware of the importance of each moment and live each with as much joy, gratitude and appreciation as I can muster. I am aware there is less time ahead for me than I have already lived. I am aware that this moment right now is what I have to work with because there is no guarantee of the next. Nothing new here, I am sure. I still remind myself every once in a while just how fortunate I am to be alive and I tell those I love how much each means to me just in case there is no tomorrow.