If your life was an hourglass, how full would it be? If my life were to extend to 78, I would still have half of my adult life left to live; many days I am optimistic about that prospect. But that confidence of continuance is being interrupted more and more – deaths of high school friends, aging parents, health concerns, tragic accidents. Last week, I had a scary popping feeling in my head followed by nauseating pain and numbness of the left side of my face. Fortunately CT and MRI’s were all clear, but while I waited on results (and recovered from the whiplash from the car accident that occurred on the trip home from the hospital – yep), I allowed my mind to wander a little. Not to the point of morbid obsession – let’s just call it a helpful, hopefully-midlife checkup.
Here is the question I wanted to answer: What would my loved ones know from me and about me if I dropped dead tomorrow? What particulars could they hold on to in confidence?
I have tried to incorporate 2 New Year’s Intentions for 2015 (if I called them resolutions they would be doomed to failure). My goals are to increase the likelihood that my loved ones know how they are loved by me and that everyone I meet feels honored or recognized in some way. My first intention is to write letters. Lots of letters with real pen and paper, envelopes and stamps. I haven’t kept accurate count, but I think I’ve written about 30 letters so far. I often have thankful thoughts and affectionate feelings about people, so I decided to start writing it down. It’s been a deeply meaningful undertaking.
We tend to save our tributes to loved ones for funerals, so their tributes become a gift to ourselves instead of to them. What encouragement would we find if we “paid our respects” to each other while we are still living?
My other intention is to pay more careful attention to the people in front of me – first my family (it is easy to half-listen to their stories and thoughts because I’m so busy taking care of them!), grocery store employees, doctor’s office receptionists, neighbor kids, UPS delivery guys, teachers in car line, whoever. Sometimes I get a chance to engage them in a personal way. Other times it means real eye contact, acknowledging their unique humanity and our brief, particular intersection, no matter how small and short it may seem. It has been fascinating to watch how people react to someone looking at them, smiling, simply communicating, “I see you.” Powerful stuff.
Whether or not I have the privilege to continue writing letters, paying attention, watching the birds, photographing the moon, or composing music, I want whatever days are left in my life to be more intentional. I hope that I still choose to meander at times, for the purpose of restoration and not just because I’m being lazy and inattentive. I also hope that my precious ones will know why I love them.
I would love to hear from you if you have found practices that help you be more connected. Leave me a comment. I might copy you next year!