Over the last few months, I probably spent too much time at nursing homes. I finally understood why my grandmother had always been so reluctant to go there, as even the best of these places are nothing but fading photocopies of what any comfortable and comforting home on Earth could possibly look like.
It made me wonder: When it comes to the end, what will you bring? What will you take along? What will you care about?
- You won’t bring your car. When you’ve reached the point I’m talking about, you won’t even be able to rise from your bed anymore. You certainly won’t be able to drive.
- You won’t take along any clothes. You won’t be needing them anymore, as all you’ll be wearing will be a nightie.
- You won’t care about money or fame or sex at that point.
So what else?
- You won’t bring your mansion, your tidy desktop, your minimalist living room, your designer sofa. Better forget about all this right away.
- You won’t take along any handguns, no matter what the Second Amendment says.1
- You won’t care anymore about motivational babble, freedom businesses, or further self-improvement exercises.
Beware, I’m not talking about Death here. Death is easy. Death is the point of relief. I’m talking about the last few minutes, hours, days and weeks, or – if you’re way out of luck – even the months and years that pass before you die: The time in which you’re still technically alive, but not in a way that allows you to live as you learned how to live and as you – maybe – got used to.
I’m talking about the time when you’re tied to your bed. When you’re hardly even able to go to the bathroom. When talking is hard, staying awake is hard, eating is hard, drinking is hard, because your organs slowly go into sleep mode, but you’re just not able to die. Yet.
If things go awry, your brain will shut down at some point, too. You won’t have any freedom of thought anymore. At that point, you won’t even be able to bring any memories. If you’re unlucky, you won’t remember a thing from your life, no matter how awesome it was.
When you’re there, what will you bring?
To be sure, I don’t wish you actually ever get to that place. By all means, please be immortal. Please trick the Grim Reaper. Or, if you must, die in a scuba diving accident on the Bahamas when you’re 103 years old.
But who could possibly know before the hour strikes?
So, once more: What will you bring?
Here’s something you can bring: A loved one by your side, comforting the dying. Comforting the dying person that will be you.
It’s just not up to you to decide whether that loved one will be willing to be there.
And here’s my question for you. It’s a weird question, maybe. But whatever it is that you’re doing and however it is that you’re feeling at this moment, why not think about it for a second: What are you doing to make the person who might be comforting you comfortable to be with you?
No matter who that person it is. No matter if it is one single person or a group of a thousand. No matter whether you even have any idea who that person could be or whether you don’t.2
Are you giving anybody a reason to be there?
This past Monday, I lost my last grandmother. She was an amazing and difficult and interesting and strong and tough and lovely person. I’m incredibly sad to see her go, but happy to say that she certainly lived a life worth living. This post is dedicated to her.