“If you knew you had a minute and a half to live, what would you do?”
This question struck me this morning while I was completing the New York Times Mini Crossword that I do first thing every morning. It took me 1:32. I enjoy doing the crossword. It’s like brief mental calisthenics — it wakes up my brain and gets me thinking about words, which is probably a good thing for a writer to do. Before eating Frosted Flakes for breakfast, I eat words.
The Mini is also a good test of how awake and sharp I am that particular day. If it takes five minutes to solve, I probably should go back to sleep. My fastest time ever was twenty-nine seconds. If I wasn’t so slow typing, I’d do better, but who am I competing against? Anything under a minute boosts my confidence in my illusory and fickle superpowers. Occasionally, I can’t solve the puzzle at all. In which case, I’m just depressed for hours. Sounds silly I agree, but hey, to be a writer is to be a bit off if you know what I mean.
Anyway, back to the bigger question — if you knew you had a minute and a half to live, what would you do? For me, it wouldn’t be the Mini Crossword. Typical responses might be: kiss your loved ones goodbye, relive your life, pray for forgiveness for all your sins — aka the people you disappointed or screwed over in your life, or perhaps, just alert Mom and Dad that you’ll be seeing them soon.
Death as an Affirmation of Life
But why am I even contemplating the question now? Am I obsessed with Death? If you’ve read my NOT SO DEAD Trilogy, you figured out that I probably am. Yet, isn’t Death the biggest, high-stakes question of our life? For me, it raises other questions like, why is life so short? Why do we have to die at all — what purpose does it serve? I’m not alone in asking these questions. There are many entrepreneurs and scientists investing time and billions of dollars in finding a cure for Death. You heard me, a CURE. What? Yeah, they call themselves longevity entrepreneurs and longevity engineers, whose sole focus is to figure out how not to die or at least live five to ten times longer than we do now. Some of the big companies involved are Google, Amazon, and Facebook. For better or worse, the founders of these companies believe they can fix or solve anything. Being Masters of the Universe, maybe they can. Hubris, possibly, but worth a shot, right? Or is it? What would living forever be like?
Perhaps the other reason I raise these questions now is that with the pandemic, death is constantly in the news and is much, much closer than Afganistan. It’s prematurely striking down, a friend, a family member, or a neighbor, even the president. Or for me personally, it might be because I had cancer surgery last year. Whatever the reason, one might call the above pressing questions. But I digress.
So, it’s your last minute and a half, the time it takes to do a Mini Crossword or get your coffee at Dunkin Donuts. I haven’t figured out for sure what I would do yet. I don’t think we’ll really understand until the moment is upon us. It may largely depend on how you got to that last minute and a half. If it’s as the result of a tragic accident or a sudden heart attack, you may not get that minute and a half at all. Not to be negative, but some people may be in great pain at the end and just want it to stop. All reasons to work on the question now. And hopefully, you will have that minute and a half to leave this world gracefully with your wits about you.
So Now What?
When my time comes, I hope to be surrounded by the ones I love, my wife, my sons, my grandkids (may there be many more), and perchance, one or two good friends if I have any left. I’m sure I will tell them how much I love them all and say, “Thank you.” What will it feel like? What will it smell like? If I had a choice, I’d pick the sensation of swimming in a cool lake at sunrise for one and the aroma of bacon cooking or coffee brewing for the other. How about you? After I’ve said my goodbyes, I’d expect a transition, a kind of meditative trance that will connect me with the divine. I may even see myself walking through the door into the light.
And then what? Do we join a sea of souls awaiting the next incarnation, rise to heaven or go the opposite direction, or is it just lights out? Your guess and your faith are as good as mine. Of one thing I am certain: whatever happens, I know I will see you there. >>>
Please share in the Comments below what you imagine your last minute and a half would be like? I think we’d all appreciate some suggestions.
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