How’s your life?

Doing a life review is one of the items on the list of actions for dying well. It seems reasonable that you would want to take stock of things as the end nears.  Create a personal “life report card.” How did I do over all? What makes me proud? What did I learn? Do I have any regrets? Unfinished business? Goals not achieved? A life review is a way of wrapping things up into one complete and, hopefully, compelling story.

My mother did not do a life review, at least not with me during my very last visit. I did manage to extract a brief description of her most favorite memory, but that is all. Perhaps, she felt no need to reminisce because she kept such an amazing photo record of her family. She created a whole library of photographic books, one for each year and one for each family member. She was, however, the principle photographer and often there was no one photographing the photographer.  I wish there had been more. Which is the other side of a life review, the story it provides for those left behind.

My mother died in the midst of her life. Maybe that is true for all of us. She had cancer and knew her time was running out, so she focused on finishing up projects. This was the help she asked of me when I came to see her that very last time. I remember sitting in her studio going through a pile of photocopies for one of her toy concepts. (She was toy designer, when not raising six children.) There were many versions of the same set of images. Some larger, some smaller, some with different subsets, none of them quite the same. I was trying to create some order out of the chaos and I asked if she needed a particular set of drawings. Trash basket was at my knee. “Oh,” she said, her voice plaintive and low, “I guess I’ll never get to that.” Her words pierced me to the core. In that instant I got the sorrow of her dying. There wasn’t going to be enough time.

Is there ever enough time? Probably not. But we forget about this truth and go on with our lives as though we live forever. Until that fateful day when we discover that the sands have drained from the hourglass and what we have is what we’ve got.

Since we never know when that hour will chime, it makes good sense to take stock of our lives along the way. This way we can course-correct in mid-flight and possibly end up with the life we really wanted. New Year’s Day and major birthdays provide ideal opportunities for such self-reflection. But there are also opportunities that arises spontaneously. The other day (two months ago actually) my husband and I watched the film, Across the Universe, a musical that used Beatles songs to tell a story of the 60’s. Both of us, familiar with these years,  found the songs and visuals stimulating of our own memories. In the night, the music filled out dreams and in the morning, a Saturday, we hung in bed sharing stories of our pasts. My husband spoke of the summer he spent at Bread and Puppet Theater. I spoke of Sufi camp and traveling with my teacher, Adnan Sarhan. It was a valuable exercise. We got to know each others’ histories a little deeper, and to have a glimpse of who we are in the continuum of our lives. It added meaning and direction to the road ahead.

One of the main messages in the film was to go after the things you love. To live fully and passionately. “All You Need is Love. . .” Among the list of 5 top regrets of the dying are: 1) Not living life true to oneself and 2) Not having the courage to express feelings.

My mother must have known this to be true because she was an awesome role model for following one’s heart.

How’s your life?

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Grief Transformation Coach Michelle Peticolas, Ph.D. helps people transform their grief with a holistic approach to mind, body and spirit that heals trauma, reframes past attachments and releases limiting beliefs while uncovering a true life purpose and direction. If you’re ready to shift into a whole new way of being with death and loss, a new way of living your life, get Michelle’s complimentary guide, Essentials for Grieving Well at

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