What If?

So it was my birthday this week, which got me thinking about how I could make this year special.

A few years ago, a local artist, Elizabeth Bradford, decided to paint one painting every day for a year. Her creative output knew no bounds and the resulting gallery showing of her 365 paintings was amazing.


My friend, Barbara Krumdieck, for her birthday one year asked her musician friends to join forces and from that collaboration she founded the North Carolina Baroque Orchestra. Years later the NCBO is still going strong and delighting audiences across the Carolinas.

Both these examples are hard to top. And I won’t even try to. My idea is much simpler.

I’ve decided to approach this next year as if it were my last, not in a depressed, all-hope-is-gone way, but in a what-are-you-waiting-for kind of way. The fact is we are all running out of time; we rarely know what will be our last year, our last month, last day, last hour, last breath.

Perhaps I am thinking about last days because I recently read Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. Apologies, to Dr. G, who is a wise and eloquent man, but my take away was that as a woman I’ll leave this world either a twig (emaciated) or a trunk (stout). The horrors and indignities that await are nothing I want any part of. Nor are the expenses associated with those horrors and indignities.

Afterward reading the book I had a light-hearted, though semi-serious, exchange with my hairdresser. He knows people who know people who can supply the right mix of pharmaceuticals to avoid all of that.

By contrast, I know a woman who is dying: multiple tumors, aggressive cancers. Yes, plural. There is no cure, only management via chemo. She’s lost all her hair; gained the expected steroid-related weight. Her attitude is great, as is her wig (you’d never know it’s not her hair). And you’d never know that she is sick, at least on the good days between treatments.

She wanted to see her daughter married. Two weeks ago, the daughter had her wedding (to the tune of thirty grand—my daughters have my blessing to elope) but I wonder, how much longer will this mother live now that this milestone has been met? No doubt, she has set another goal.

I admire this woman; I couldn’t do what she is with such grace and good humor. Anyone who knows me knows that I want no heroic measures to stave off the inevitable. I will call my hairdresser.

I am reminded now of what my husband and his friends said in their twenties: Live fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse. Well, it’s too late for that.

But I’d like to wind up with no loose ends and no regrets and knowing that I gave those things that have so far eluded my grasp one last shot. And that is what I dedicate this year to: tying up loose ends, putting aside regrets, and not giving up just yet.

Here’s to a great year!