Today was the last day of my life.
I said goodnight to my children for the last time—ever. Today I had my last dessert, took my last shower, sang my last song, and shared my last giggle.
I dedicated an entire day to living as though I knew it was my last, planning the night before to wake up treating each and every act as a grand finale. The idea was planted by an inspirational blog on “gratitude on steroids” by Averil Linn on elephantjournal.com.
The premise of her post is to imagine that you have died and are given a one-day pass back to your life. Daily routines, chores, and activities must be maintained, but you get the privilege of a do-over and a final farewell.
Blessed with one more day, yet burdened knowing it was my last day to live and love, my experience was bittersweet.
Everything I did felt more powerful. Actions and interactions oozed with kindness and understanding. The world slowed down. Birds sang to me. The sun shone for me. The wind blew for me. As I spoke to strangers and those familiar alike, I sought eye contact and to make a connection. Music evoked memories, water warmed and relaxed me, flavors were more robust. Life was good.
Simultaneously, every act was spiked with grand sadness. I would be overcome with love, only to feel a wave of regret and despair at knowing: This. Was. It. As I savored all of these intense observations and sensations, my heart tugged at every turn, reminding me that what I was feeling, tasting, sensing was for the last time.
Grateful for every moment, I thought about each of my loved ones, my friends, parents more deeply and wondered what they might be doing at that moment. I sent silent prayers of love and gratitude to them. I texted gratitude to my husband who works so hard to make us happy; I knew a phone call would break me. I stopped to cuddle with my dogs, thankful to them for their faithful love and companionship; a rare pause to give them their due.
Interactions with my children, as you can imagine, were the most powerful. Their words sounded sweeter, and I grasped at them for all of their meaning. I gazed at my children for as long as they would allow, yearning to hold and love them. “Can they feel my love for them?” I questioned throughout the day.
Mundane routines revealed their true significance. Time in the car was more connected with my little loves behind me. Even when my children misbehaved or pushed my triggers, my response was calmer, more loving, less focused on my end-game.
A run to the grocery store struck me with gratitude at the abundance and the options to nourish my family. The beauty of the produce stood out in a way I had never noticed, a swath of colors and shapes. I felt fortunate to be walking through the store, filling my cart with items that would strengthen my family. With a heavy heart, I collected some of their favorite treats and special requests, so they would have them when I was gone.
Dinner was a time of reflection. As my core family surrounded me, I took them all in. I listened to their goofy stories, giggles, and spats. I focused on their smiles instead of their manners. I alone, knew that this was the last time the five of us would sit around the table together. It was incredibly humbling and fulfilling to know that these were my people, and I loved them so intensely. I jumped in on the silliness to hide my despair and to also leave them with a happy last memory.
Bedtime was by far the most brutal hour of my journey. I would have had the kids camp out in the family room with me, staying up all night, but the deal was, regular routines. As I read to and snuggled with each of my children, I tried to soak them up: the scents of their hair, the softness of their cheeks, the length of their eyelashes, the innocence of their voices, the delight of their laughter. I couldn’t get enough of them. I stared at them, hugged them, and laughed with them. I wasn’t rushing to get on to the next thing. I didn’t want to let go of them—ever. It took everything in me to not cry. By some miracle, my tears didn’t escape as I spent my “final moments” with the loves of my life.
The thought of leaving them and never seeing or hearing or holding them again—there are no words; just deep anguish and profound gratitude for the time I did have with them. Guilt for my mistakes and thoughts of them living without their Mommy tried to creep in, but I chose to focus on the smiles, love, and connectivity instead.
After tucking them in, I was so emotionally spent the final few hours were less focused. I tried to lovingly pack lunches, with little notes of my devotion attached. I tidied up the house, straightening frames cradling old memories, pillows that cushioned my weary family, and blankets that embraced us. I sat with my husband, asking about him, his day, and his tomorrow, instead of spilling my complaints and worries. I tried to envelope him with understanding and admiration. His exhaustion and mine tempered our time together.
The entire day was emotionally taxing, lovely, powerful, inspiring, and full of authentic feelings. I’d be lying if I said I was able to maintain my focus the entire day. I slipped in and out of context as I bustled about, but always managed to pull myself back into the process with a swift mental reminder.
If you are prepared for a fierce reality check along with a heaping dose of gratitude, joy, and humility in life’s varied moments, give this experience a try. Fully commit and do it on the down-low, so it can be a truly personal reflection. For me, the feelings and realizations were too intense to reenact daily, but absolutely affected me. By the time I finally fell into bed I had evolved. I recognized my profound good fortune, and I tasted just enough of loss to terrify me into hoping, with all of my being, that I never forget those emotions or take the many blessings in my life for granted again.