A Writer’s Last Thoughts

My old dog chose to take a long walk around the beach yesterday — I had the time, had just had breakfast, so went along with his decision. As we ambled, sniffed, snapped pictures, and greeted other dogs, I had loads of time to think.

I mulled over Sravani Saha’s story about a woman’s last moments. She sets up an ordinary day, television on a cricket match, grandchild chattering. As an old woman falls to her death, she hurtles through memories, loved ones, fragments from life lived well and long. Saha summoned the story to life from a single line that she read about a true incident.

What will I think in my last moments?

I have no idea. How could I?

I hope it’s good.

I’ll bet it will be good. I’ve lived life blessed with love, marriage, children, family and friends, enterprises, and endeavors. There are so many memories, rich images, good times to be drawn upon for my final slide show.

I’ve stored up loads of memories. They extend back to being a tiny girl leaning out her bedroom window to spot New York City’s twinkling lights to the backyard bakery where we dusted sawdust on creek-mud cookies. Wedding day, holding hands, graduations, sincere hugs, gape-mouthed wonder in Yosemite and Tuscany, baby smiles and first steps, sweaty hikes to incredible summits, Adirondack chair reading in Lake George.

Yesterday, I ached at the way fall sunlight shone clear cool on tumbled rock walls, scarlet leaves, and resolute hydrangea blooms. I couldn’t catch it with my camera, but I’ll remember it always.

My last thoughts might be well-known, beloved words. Winnie the Pooh might tease Gandalf, Nancy Drew hold hands with Jane Eyre. Maybe I’ll enjoy lines: “I am beautiful enough for the both of us…” from Rowling’s Harry Potter.

The words might be super fresh, just-read words. Veronica Henry’s How to Find Love in a Bookshop flows with incredible prose; where babies reach starfish hands, a woman returns home after her father has died to discover that all the rooms felt drained of warmth, and there are exchanges where one character says “Falling in love is optional.” and the love of his life responds “Not always.”

Yet another option is simple and heartfelt tumble: I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.

Maybe last moments will be a sound and light show spectacular. The only word might be “Wow!” That would be fun — and make sense given what I’ve learned from pop neuroscience and end-of-life caregiver accounts of dying.

In one of my current stories, a lead character dies. Since the story is written from another character’s point of view, I’m off the hook for making up last moments. Maybe she’ll smile. Possibly a loved one greets her from the next place and she says, “I’m so glad you’re here.” Whatever she winds up doing will be what it is; I am not allowed to invade Eleanor’s private last thoughts.

By the end of our hour and a half saunter that used to take an hour, I hadn’t come to any conclusions about last thoughts, but I did capture some beautiful photographs, catch up with a fellow dog walker, and treasured warm sun on my back. I also got to mull over a fellow writer’s incredible story — and be heartily grateful for words, reading, and blogs.

Another idea just popped into my head, that I might bless my last moments with an idea that I lean on hard every day:

“I don’t know how to do this, but something inside me does.” Paul Williams and Tracey Jackson, in Gratitude and Trust.

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