Miranda: A question
If you were to drop dead right now, this very minute, and you had a moment of last consciousness to weigh your life in the balance, what would the verdict be? Would you feel that you had lived your life to the fullest; that you had accomplished something important, whatever that means to you?
I admit to an unhealthy fixation on mortality. I think about this kind of thing a lot. The topic came up recently with my cousin Charlotte (OK, so we covered almost everything in the domain of life and art within a few hours). Charlotte noted that I had just referred to death and dying about 30 times within 20 minutes. I’m not usually quite that bad, but I am frequently troubled by my fear of dying before I’ve completed a few important things on my list.
Charlotte was surprised to hear that I don’t think of my five children as “accomplishments.” But I don’t. They are really just these random people who I’m taking care of. I don’t take credit for having “good” kids — so much luck is involved; really I just try not to mess them up too much. Yes, being a mother, a good mother, is important to me, but it isn’t my life’s work. Sometimes I wish it were. Things would be a lot simpler. But while I try to apply creativity to motherhood as much as possible, my children do not feel like my “creations.”
When it comes to assessing life on a macro level, blogs like 37 Days only feed my obsessive nature. While the question “how would I spend my last month of life” is an important one, such a short timespan by necessity requires letting go of everything unimportant, immediately. For me, if I only had a month left to live, I would be entirely focused on my family and creating as many memories as possible — and creating reminders of my love for my children that would live beyond me. Would I worry about finishing my book? Probably not, although I think I would hand the project off to a trusted friend and ask her to finish it for me. I would probably write a good number of poems instead.
But since none of us can know exactly how much time we have left, we can only muddle through, trying to keep our perspective on what’s really important. While I might not work on my book if I only had a month left to live, I would work on the book if I knew had a year.
I hope that whenever the Big Mac Truck comes my way, I can go without regret. Of course there would be immeasurable sadness for leaving my family — but I would hope that I would be comforted by the feeling that I had done my best with the time that I had. That my children could rest contented in the knowledge that I loved them deeply. And that I had left something else behind — a book, perhaps? — that could touch the lives of strangers and help them make the most of their lives.
Maybe in our very last moments the only thing that matters is our relationships, and everything else becomes irrelevant. I wonder. How about you? What is the measure of a life well lived, and where does your creative mark fit into that assessment?