Today I decided to follow the advice of so many facebook friends that I kind of knew in junior high, cult leaders, tattoos, and writers of inspirational words, and live this day as if it were my last, in order to truly appreciate the wonder of the world, and the miracle of the love of the people that surround me, or, you know, something along those lines.
Well, let me just tell you right now--it’s harder than you think!
First of all, I think statistically speaking, and with any luck, I’ll spend my last day in a hospital bed, hooked to an IV that will dispense large quantities of my opiate of choice. In fact, when you think about it, those opiates would probably contribute a lot to the project of appreciating life and love and beauty and stuff. But I guessed it would be pretty hard to set up that scenario, even though I’m friends with this one really nice nurse. Anyway, it would definitely be really expensive.
So I considered some less likely last-day scenarios. My favorite hypothetical death has always been getting hit from behind by a Mack truck that I never see coming, and killed instantly. Perhaps I could posit this as the end of my last day. But no: the whole appeal of that death is that it’s a complete surprise, just God flipping the off-switch. There’s no agonizing, no putting your affairs in order, no pondering the possibility of an afterlife, no finally working up the courage to tell your 7th grade crush that you still love him, and still cherish that collection of his used tissues and chewed gum you collected all those years ago in a shoebox under your bed. You’re just going about your business as usual, returning the videos, buying some health and beauty products, or maybe even stooping to pick up a penny, thinking it’s your lucky day, and then—whammo!—you’re not, the end. But too bad: not only is this happy scenario pretty unlikely—only .005% of pedestrians are killed by large trucks, and a good 78% of those hear it coming, as those suckers are pretty loud—not only that, but it pretty much defeats the whole purpose of this experiment, which presumes your awareness of your imminent demise, otherwise, what would be the point?
On the other hand, I know from experience that cancer—and probably most other long, lingering diseases—offer far too much wiggle-room to really lend themselves to self-discovery, deep human bonding, or mystic appreciation. You never know for a fact which exact day is going to be the last one, or maybe you can even get out of the dying part altogether, so you can put off awkward, soul-baring conversations, long, buggy walks in the woods, and jumping off of really high stuff, indefinitely. In my experience, cancer actually turns out to be the perfect excuse to gorge yourself on junk food in front of the TV, and catch up on celebrity gossip.
Now, I’m sure there’s some variation in this, but I think most people who know they’re about to die probably just totally freak out. They cry, they scream, they hyperventilate, they drink. If they have a couple of hours or days to spare, they might spend some time freaking out alongside their loved-ones—crying, screaming, hyperventilating, and/or drinking together. But I don’t think this kind of full-on freak-out—alone, or en masse--is the kind of true appreciation of life and wonder that my former-junior-high-acquaintances and their tattoo artists have in mind, although it probably technically should qualify.
After a lot of consideration, during which I took a break to check e-mail, and watch a pretty funny YouTube video a friend had posted of a singing banana, and then a couple of others that were linked to that one, I decided to leave aside the question of exactly how I was going to end my “last” day, and get around to seizing it. I told the kids that as soon as their dad got up, and we all finished breakfast and cleaned up the kitchen, and got showered and dressed, we were going to spend some time truly appreciating life and each other, and the things that truly matter to us most in the end. “In a minute, Mom”, droned the Big One, intent on his project of making a miniature Space Needle out of small chewed-up pieces of paper. The Little One growled at me and bared his teeth, so I decided not to push the issue, having given them fair warning.
When my husband got up, I told him my plan. “So I was thinking maybe today we could do that thing where we live as if it were our last day on earth.”
He was amenable. “OK, that sounds cool.”
“Cool. OK.” I waited for him to check his e-mail. “So do you want to have some people over?”
“Well, we could ask the Brookses, but I think they’re out of town. Maybe the Franks? I don’t know, it’s kinda last minute. And the house is a wreck, we’d have to clean.”
“You wanna drive out to the beach?”
“It’s getting kinda late for that—we wouldn’t get there til about 2, and the traffic might be bad.”
“Do you want to go into the city?”
“What would we do there?”
“I don’t know, just walk around?”
“The kids hate that.”
At this point, I remembered that funny video that I wanted to show him, which reminded him of one, and we ended up spending about an hour watching stuff on YouTube.
Well, you can see how it went. At about 4 in the afternoon, we decided to go for a walk around the neighborhood with the kids, which was pretty nice until the Little One fell down and the Big One got mad because we still wouldn’t let him have a tv in his room: “But Mo-o-om, if it was actually your last day on earth, you’d definitely let me watch tv in my room!”
By the time we got home we were hungry and cranky. We couldn’t decide what to make for dinner, so we ordered pizza and watched an Adam Sandler movie that we thought would be a good family movie, but turned out to be too dirty for the Big One, too boring for the Little One, and too stupid for us.
After the kids went to bed, I felt kinda bad, because if it was really my last day to live, probably I could have done a better job of appreciating everything, or at least finding something to do. My husband and I agreed that next weekend…no wait, it will have to be the weekend after that, because we’re visiting my sister-in-law next weekend…so the weekend after next, we’re definitely going to PLAN an awesome last day, get up early—like, 9:30 at the latest—and appreciate the heck out of it all.