My friend Genny at My Cup 2 Yours has been doing a thirty day challenge asking the question, "How would you live your life if you only had one month to live?"
In fact, she held a contest giving away a couple of copies of the bestselling book One Month to Live by Kerry and Chris Shook. I was one of the lucky winners of the book and I am really looking forward to reading it.
I have been thinking about this question a lot.
If I only had one month to live my life, the changes I would make would probably be similar to most other people. Spend more quality time with my family, children, and my husband. Try to be more present. Worry less about the details of things such as financial stressors, my son's penmanship, whether the laundry is completely up to date.
Several years ago, I used to lead a group with seniors at The Einstein Center (a residential home for the elderly) in Sacramento, CA. It was a reminiscence group. It was one of the most popular groups at the center. We always had about twenty to thirty seniors attend the group and we were even interviewed by the local newspaper and the seniors shared some of their stories and memories.
In this group, the seniors would share detailed memories about their lives and we would laugh together and sometimes cry. Some of the stories were simple like a favorite family recipe or tradition. Some of the stories were more intense stories of survival and courage.
I remember a story of one of the men in the group who had been a young Jewish boy in Austria during the time of the Holocaust. His family was safe, but they had very little food. One snowy afternoon the mother of the family was looking out the window and saw the family cat with something in it's mouth. She ran outside and the cat was holding a big, fresh and juicy steak. It had been a long time since they had any meat, so they cooked it up and had a feast for supper. He remembers it as a very precious family meal and one of the best steaks he ever tasted.
The war was nearing an end and at some point they were out in the streets celebrating with other villagers. A neighbor was telling the story of how she had bought a steak on the black market and put it in the windowsill to air out. It had completely disappeared from the window. It was a great mystery.
I remember clearly this senior was quite advanced in age, yet he remembered this story from his boyhood vividly and in great detail. In the group, there was no sharing of the minor irritations or daily problems of life though I'm sure they were there. The stories shared were those that were meaningful and had made an impact in some way on the life of the person telling the story.
More than anything else I want to focus on connecting and engaging with others. I want to be grateful and thankful for the things in my life. I want to give up being lost in the past by what could have been, or caught in the future by what might be possible. I want to live in the present and in the now with a continual "one month to live" attitude. I want to enjoy the great "steaks" of my life and be open to the many ways of how I might receive them.
In One Month to Live each chapter opens with quotes from famous authors. Here are a few that stood out to me:
I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I have just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well. Diane Ackerman
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. it can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Melody Beattie
Death is more universal than life; everyone dies but not everyone lives. Alan Sachs