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.