As I sit here in Colorado, two days day before I see my mother for [potentially] the last time, I find myself at a loss as to what to write about this week. As I sit in my cozy little Airbnb, being tired from the 1113-mile drive, I look through my files for inspiration. I am shocked to find that I wrote “The Last Goodbye” just over one year ago on January 24, 2020. I can’t think of a more appropriate message. I meow share last year’s Weekly Mindfulness Support in its entirety.
“Hello and welcome to Friday, January 24, 2020! This is a rare and precious day that will never come again. We are not promised a tomorrow.
Imagine how much different a goodbye would look if you realized that it may be your last goodbye.
It’s been my experience that most people are uncomfortable talking about death. I know I used to be. I felt it was morbid and saw no real use in talking about one’s demise. I would have told you that I wasn’t afraid of death when in fact I was – I was terrified. I remember my first experience with death. I was eight years old and recall seeing the still, cyanotic, sunken eyed man who was once my grandfather in his white linen-lined casket. It haunted me for years. I knew it was him, but it wasn’t him. I didn’t understand. I just believed death was something to be avoided and no-one in my circle really wanted to talk about it. I sure didn’t.
Today, I feel that we don’t talk near enough about death.
Death is a much bigger concept than our own demise. If we think about it, each passing moment, is passing. No, Really! Each moment literally dies with the emergence of each new moment. We only get to experience each moment once! We all intuitively know that everything changes. Nevertheless, as we navigate our day, we tend to forget not only the impermeant nature of our own existence, but of each moment. Imagine how much more you would likely engage in your day if you were to consistently call to mind that whatever you are doing may in fact be the last time that you’ll ever get to experience it.
Calling to mind that my life (and all that is) is impermeant and today may in fact be my last, is one of the most inspirational Mindfulness exercises that I do! But it didn’t start out inspirational.
When I first started doing this practice, I felt tense and scared. I felt an impending doom. I was on a seemingly constant alert for threats. As I progressed in the practice, I had feelings of remorse for not living my life more fully. Instead of this practice inspiring me, I lived wishing I would have done things differently. It wasn’t long, however, before I turned the corner and realized how this truth of impermanence could be of maximum benefit in my life.
Like I previously mentioned, it wasn’t only my demise that was at stake. I came to the realization everything really is transient. I started to reflect on how much has come and gone in my life. I started to remember friends, pets, holidays, teachers, classes and schools, days skiing and sledding, hiking up mountains and going camping. I started to realize that instead of being remorseful for my lack of attentiveness during those times, I could take this truth and move forward with an intention to embrace each moment as if it will never come again – it won’t!
I’m a work in progress and I wish that I could report to you that I practice this exercise diligently all the time. I’m getting better! Regardless, on the days that I deeply embrace this truth of impermanence, I listen to birds a little more closely, I breathe in the smell flowers a little more deeply, I hold my cats a little more tightly, I taste my food a little more intensely, I embrace my emotions a little more openly, I walk a little more mindfully, I appreciate my work and my life a little more passionately and I hold my friends, family and partner a little more lovingly. When saying goodbye, and this when I really feel it, I do so a little more earnestly.
Something I try to always call to mind: “If you were to die after we part, would I feel good about how I said goodbye?”
We just don’t know if this time will be our last – whatever it is. When I left Colorado to move to Corvallis, I was acutely aware that I may never get to ski again on Monarch Pass. I haven’t yet. From the top of the ski area, I clearly remember pausing, looking around and taking it in – the brisk freshness of the air, the trees and snow and the call of the camp-robbing Gray jays. The last time I was on the Oregon Coast, I clearly remember pausing and taking in the sights, sounds and smells from the Cape Perpetua overlook; eating my Green Salmon tempeh reuben (amazing btw) on Smelt Sands Beach; watching the sun dip below the horizon. The last time I saw my children, sisters and parents, I was present and remember the loving look in their eyes. I remember all these events more vividly because at that time I called to mind that I may never get another opportunity.
It’s so easy to take for granted not only our own life, but also all that we have in our life.
Frequently calling to mind the impermeant nature of my life and all that is in existence has created a sense of urgency and profoundly inspires me to be here meow and to engage in my life with attention and intention!"
I love you and there isn’t anything that you can do about it!
One Breath Closer to Death,
Contribute to the Turning Leaf Foundation
If you would like to help bring Mindfulness to the less fortunate and to help pay for current services, your generosity is deeply appreciated.