If You Had Just 8 Hours Left

It’s often asked, “What would you do if you had six months to live?”

That gives rise to such answers as travel, time with family, and, perhaps surprisingly, work more.

But quite different implications could emerge from a slightly different question:

What would you do if you had just eight hours left to live?

Here’s a composite sample drawn from my clients and me of what a person might do and think in those last hours.

  • 9 a.m.  I’d start my last day by Zooming with my son, son-in-law, and grandkids.  

I’ll mainly listen but this is a special opportunity for candor—Any advice I offer at this point may have special impact. I must remember that the goal isn’t true confession, for example, that I had an affair. It’s a time for something constructive, I might say, “Dear grandkids, I know that told you that I like my career in sales and then in fundraising. Truth is, I never really thought that what I was pitching was that good but I needed to contribute to the family income. I hope you won’t choose to be a salesperson or fundraiser under false pretenses.” I’d want to end with something like, “I hope you’ll remember your grandpa as someone who cared a lot about you and who hopes you make the biggest difference you can while often enjoying yourself.”

  • 9 a.m. Make French toast. Use a little extra maple syrup.

9:15 a.m. Take a walk, taking in the natural and man-made beauty: flowers, architecture—that monument to human capability, not just the architect’s but the people with the skill and drive to build.

  • 10 a.m. Write the note that I’d want read at my memorial, both thank-you’s and what I think may be under-considered words of wisdom

For example, that loyalty is irrational. I think of all the politicians, executives, and admins who remained loyal to a sleazy boss. You should befriend or be employed by someone only when, ongoing, they’re worthy of you.

  • Noon.. Eat a piece of baguette and melted camembert cheese and tomato.

12:15 p.m. Say good-bye to my best friends. Try to be wise: Again, mainly listen, perhaps offer one piece of constructive candor and end on a positive human note while still being honest, for example, “Despite our fights, I am very glad you were an important part of my life. I’ll never forget that weekend in Vermont.”

2 p.m. Reiterate my financial and other last wishes to my wife. Answer any of her questions.

4:p.m. Savor a piece of warm fudge cake.

5 p.m. Hold my wife’s hands and look into her eyes. Say good-bye.

The takeaway

Do you want to try that thought experiment?

If you do, afterwards, ask yourself if that makes you want to change anything about how you’re living your life?  For example, is there something you’d love to say to the world but feel you can’t? Want to post something anonymously or under a pen name?

We may decide to do some thing but it often gets lost amid life. Do you want to write down at least one change you’d like to make as a result of that thought experiment?

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