Its been a hard week, with reminders everywhere
of how limited our time is on this planet. I spent one day this week with my
best friend, waiting in the hospital as her husband got an angiogram following
his heart attack - at age 51. I stayed in touch all week with another friend,
waiting moment by moment for his mother to finally be free from the grips of
|Photo © Hildy Gottlieb
All this is under the backdrop of the gulf coast
hurricane, a place where everyone seems to either be relieved to know a family
member was able to climb to safety, or is still waiting to
We have all been surrounded this week with the reminder
that life is short, and that we never know when, in the snap of a cosmic
finger, it will be cut short.
An ancient meditation practice has been my saving grace
this week. It is simple, but powerful. It puts life into perspective, and urges
us to do what is most important.
If this were the last week of my life, what would I
For me, considering this thought during my morning
walk, contemplating a life free of regrets, a life where we cherish what we so
often overlook - these moments have quickly become a touchstone for the rest of
my day. At a time when it is easy to despair, these thoughts have been
Here is some of what Ive thought about this
If this were my last week alive, I would let everyone
who has touched my life know how important they have been to me. I would thank
them for teaching me, for being kind to me - and for teaching me more, perhaps,
when they have not been kind to me.
I would write or call those I love, to tell them I love
them. To anyone about whom I think Its been a while - I wonder how
shes doing? I would call and find out.
I would give the most precious things I own to the
people I most want to have them. They will do me no good when Im gone,
and in truth probably dont do me much good now.
And that keynote address Im giving this week? It
would be my best. I would work even harder to make sure they learn what I want
them to learn, because I wont have another chance to teach them. (And
would I want to hear, from the great beyond, someone saying, That last
speech of hers? Nothing special... Oh if there is a hell for public
speakers, that would surely be it!)
If this were my last week on earth, I would find a way
to let the world know we dont have to be fighting all the time. That
unlike our animal brethren, we humans have the capacity to rise above our
fears, to act from compassion and wisdom, to learn from the past. In my last
week, I would try to encourage as many people as possible to realize that our
humanity is a special gift, and that we are squandering that gift if we
dont use it to get past the insanity of war and fear and
And I know in that last week, I would make sure to
spend one dinnertime laughing with my big extended family. The 3 kids together,
with their friends and girlfriends, seeing who can be more disgusting. Laughing
till it hurts. Watching them be joyful together, out-perform each other, love
each other. Maybe Id give up something else and take 2 of those
And in that last week, I would eat every single thing
that tasted really really good. I would feel sick as a dog the next day, and I
would laugh at myself, saying, It appears there are some things you will
not learn, even in your last days on this planet.
During that last week, I would get on a plane and visit
someplace Ive always wanted to go. Perhaps I would stare at every inch I
could see of the Vatican, where my daughter left her heart when she was 15 and
said, Mom, this is the most amazing place in the world.
Or maybe instead I would return to a place Ive
already loved - perhaps a day or 2 in ancient and magical Erongaricuaro, the
Mexican village where spring is eternal, where cows roam the cobbled streets,
and where friends live an art-filled life of green and wet and 20 foot
bougainvilleas. Or maybe visit my beloved New York City one more
As Ive thought of all the things I would do if
this were my last week on earth, I realize this is what I want to be doing
I want to be teaching at my best, encouraging others to
do their best.
I want to show as many people as possible how to use
the organizations we take for granted - the places where we work and volunteer
- to make huge, significant, lasting improvement in our communities, our
I want to remember that owning stuff isnt nearly
as fun as experiencing stuff.
I want to remember that its not just me that
wont last forever, but the incredible places around our world - places
like New Orleans, like the World Trade Towers, like the Buddhas of
Afghanistans Bamiyan valley. Its not just our lives that are
fragile and fleeting - it is the life of everything around us, of our whole
But more than anything, I want to show those I love
that I love them. And I want to thank those Ive learned from, every day.
I want to appreciate the people who have helped me, so many of whom dont
even know that they have.
Which is why I am sharing these thoughts with you. I
have learned far more from the work Dimitri and I have been blessed to do than
I could ever give back.
|Photo © Dimitri Petropolis
And so, to you who are doing the work your community
needs from you - yes, you! - I want to say thank you.
And I want to encourage you to go out and kick butt as
if this were the very last week you have to make a difference, for your
community, your family, your world.