I am reading this book on writing memoirs called Old Friend From Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir by Natalie Goldberg (2007). She gives these challenging exercises designed to unlock memories and feelings. There is the one exercise where she asks:
Tell me what you will miss when you die…
That statement struck me so deeply, I had to stop everything I was doing and respond:
Tell me what you will miss when you die. That is the most interesting request, given the number of times I have wanted to kill myself and given the number of times I have just wanted to stop living. I am a believer in Jesus Christ and do believe in eternal life, but I guess if I am just operating on the limited belief that nothing happens when you die, that this (meaning this world) is all there is, I would start with my favorite things.
I would miss tuning in for an episode of General Hospital and discussing how crazy the show is, and listening to my mother tell me repeatedly that she is going to stop watching it, although she never does. I would miss writing in my journal. I would miss learning new things and reading books. I would miss listening to and discovering new music. I would miss playing the flute. I would miss animals and kitty kisses from Samson. I would miss laughter and sunshine. I would miss my mom, and I would miss my best friend, Vanessa.
I would miss afternoons at Panera Bread, classical music, Starbucks Americanos, and a cup of tea. I would miss trying new recipes and cooking French cuisine from my Julia Child cookbook. I would miss feel good movies like Julie and Julia and Steel Magnolias and watching spectacular movies like Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. I would miss discussing the Twilight series with my best friend, and therapy sessions with my shrink.
I would miss the memories of my dad and the stories my mom had to tell me about our history. I would miss sweet kisses and tender hugs. I would miss White Sox games and trips to the zoo, reading the Bible, and going to church.
I would miss hair relaxers, mascara, lipstick, and sundresses.
I would miss romance novels and academic journals.
I would miss driving down Lake Shore Drive, watching fireworks, the meow of a cat, the tweet of a bird, the smell of Sunday dinner.
I would miss live jazz, listening to a symphony orchestra, salsa and belly dancing.
And if I died today, I would miss falling in love and having the baby boy that I recently saw in my dreams.
For some reason as I’m writing this, I have visions of Clarence the angel in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life when he says, “You see George, you really had a wonderful life.” Although this is not an all-inclusive list of what I would miss when I die, it does show how great life is, when you actively live it.