If you knew you were dying…

Way back in the day when I was an inspired teenager working at the old Golden Braid Bookstore on Broadway, I used to love to write inspiring quotes in various places to inspire us behind the counter. One line has never stopped touching me as intensely as the first time I read it and wrote it down.

“If you knew you were going to die tomorrow,
who would you call,
and what would you say?

And why are you waiting?!”

– Stephen Levine

This past week a dear friend lost her not-very-old and apparently healthy father who died in his sleep.
I’m sure impermanence has recently touched your life too, as it always does.

These painful losses are also potent reminders to me of the preciousness and impermanence of this whole situation.

This morning I sat on the porch reading an old book of poetry with my morning coffee and am inspired to share this one with you. From my main poetry squeeze, Mary Oliver:

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

Carl and I included an excerpt of this one in our wedding 8 years ago this month. . .

“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.”

Last weekend, I was feeling unsettled by the relative chaos in our house – toys, clothing, dishes, yardwork, unanswered emails (I’m sure you can relate…)

We were thinking of going camping and I thought – “Maybe I should just stay home and work.”

But when I ran it through this inquiry:

If I were dying – which would I regret more?

Letting my house stay messy, or missing a camping trip with my loves?

It was easy. :)

We went to the desert in the Grand Staircase Escalante, had 2 amazing days and nights of playing in what Mesa nicknamed ‘The Halikari Desert,” hiking in a creek, sitting in our tent watching evening rainshowers, sitting by the campfire stunned by the multitude of stars we don’t often see…. I’m grateful.


So – I’m curious about you. . .

If you knew you were dying soon, how would you live?

Who would you call?

What would you let slide?

What opportunities would you embrace?

With gratitude for this precious opportunity of being alive, together, for a time, and with my dearest wishes,


We'd love it if you'd consider sharing with your networks.
Share on Facebook
Pin on Pinterest
Tweet about this on Twitter
Share on LinkedIn
Email this to someone
Share on Google+
Don't miss a single post. Sign up here to get them delivered straight to your inbox.
Posted in


By training and profession, I am a somatic educator. Over the past 25+ years I have trained in and taught modern dance, tai chi, Indian and Tibetan yoga, yoga therapy (specializing in back pain). I completed a 4-year professional Feldenkrais training in 2007 and a 3-year Embodied Life training in 2014. I also study and work with somatic meditation and the profound practice of embodied inner listening known as Focusing.

Leave a Comment