Think: It Could Be the Last Time

My former boss died last week. I worked for her for 13 years. She taught me how to be a communications strategist, how to embrace New York, and how to deal with difficult people without losing your cool. We went through her divorce, the deaths of her parents, my son’s disability, and the deaths of my father and sister-in-law. I have many good memories and a little sadness from difficult times.

The last time I saw her was at a Christmas party just before the pandemic. She was busy with a client, and I needed to leave. So I stood near her, waiting for an opening. It was brief. I gave her a hug and wished her well. I don’t remember what she said to me. It was the last time I saw one of the most monumental people in my life.

Sometimes we are fully conscious that we are saying goodbye to a loved one. It was so at my dad’s deathbed when they took him off a ventilator. My mother, brother, sister and I watched him take his last breath in full awareness of the finality of the moment.

But those times are rare.

This Christian mindfulness exercise helps us be less cavalier about seeing your loved ones. It’s simple: Just remind yourself that this could be the last time you talk to them. This sounds like Debbie Downer created the exercise, but it also helps you to be more aware of the person. After all, death comes to 100% of us, and not always in the order we were expecting.

We are often distracted, particularly around our family. We half-listen. We get annoyed. We don’t recognize how important every interaction is. I even think this colors our reaction when we lose someone to death. I wish I’d known … I wish I’d said … I wish we’d gotten past this.

Try listening to a loved one with the idea that it could be the last time. It makes the future better.

Pick a Family Feast Day

Be still and know that I am God.

Once a year, gather your family to celebrate a family feast day. You’ll need to invite Jesus, of course.

You can pick a date that works best for you and your loved ones. Mine is the second Friday after Pentecost, the traditional date of the Feast of the Sacred Heart. (If you are the only one in your family who wants a family feast day, just do it. Jesus will be with you, and you will enjoy His presence.)

At my house, we have a nice brunch. Then we look back on the previous year. What changes occurred? How are the New Year’s Eve resolutions going? Do you see a change in your faith life?

Then we look ahead to what we would like for the coming year: faith life, church life, family life, social life and travel for us. You can add work, studies and anything else significant. Since I have a rule of life, I can take a look at it to see how it’s working and if it needs to change. (You can find my rule of life here.) If you don’t have a rule of life or a family/personal mission statement, your feast day would be a good time to develop one.

For example, we have a grandparent mission statement that says: “Our mission is to offer our granddaughter love, safety, and exposure to new and fun things. We hope she will feel secure in our presence so she can be her authentic self. We want to be trustworthy and supportive of her parents. We hope to help our granddaughter experience our attributes: love of learning, love of the outdoors, creativity, kindness, humor, joy, and compassion and mercy for the less fortunate.”

We close the feast day discussion with prayer. Since we have chosen the Sacred Heart feast, we use this prayer:

Most sweet Jesus,
Redeemer of the human race,
look down upon us humbly prostrate before you. 
We are yours, and yours we wish to be;
but to be more surely united with you, 
behold, each one of us freely consecrates himself today
to your most Sacred Heart.
Many indeed have never known you;
many, too, despising your precepts, 
have rejected you.
Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus,
and draw them to your Sacred Heart.
Be King, Oh Lord,
not only of the faithful who have never forsaken you,
but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned you;
grant they they may quickly return to their Father's house,
lest they die of wretchedness and hunger.
Be King of all who are deceived by erroneous opinions,
or whom discord keeps aloof, and call them back to the harbor of truth
and the unity of faith,
so that soon there may be but one flock and one Shepherd.
Grant, O Lord, to your Church
assurance of freedom and immunity from harm; 
give tranquility of order to all nations;
make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry:
Praise to the divine Heart that wrought out salvation;
to it be glory and honor forever. Amen.