What If This Is The Last Time?

RD1I feel very fortunate to have my best friend and partner all in one person. It is a gift, yes, but it also means I have to be totally honest with Steve about everything. That’s what you do with best friends – confide – right? You tell your best friend all the annoying things your spouse does. Because Steve is my best friend, I really think about whether or not to mention the few little things he does that get under my skin. They are actually my issues, not his, right?

We had the wonderful opportunity of living with my mom, Dottie, for the last eight years of her life. We moved in with her after a health crisis that the doctors thought was the beginning of the end – saying we would have her for a year or two – but I guess that goes to show what cutting out cigarettes after 60 years and what a new diet of organic foods can do to extend your life. She bounced back and thrived. Although the journey was incredible, and the three of us had a blast together, there were times when I felt myself ready to snap or roll my eyes at her for being overly concerned about what I saw as trivial or her wanting to continue to do something the same way she had for 80 some years, when I knew better.

Most of the time with Steve and my mom, I would stop myself and say, “What if this were the last thing I got to say to them? Would this be what I would want to say?”

I started this habit when I thought I would only have Dottie for a short time. I started saying to myself, “If this were the last time …”It can sound heavy but it wasn’t/isn’t. It just made me stop and think.

We are rarely given the opportunity “to know”when something is for the last time. But when we are given the chance to know – you really pay attention. Your deep awareness takes over, and the trivial does not get a chance to interfere.

Fast forward eight years. Dottie had an episode with her lungs that put her in the hospital overnight. She seemed fine as we left the hospital that evening. The next morning they called to say she was having issues breathing, and they did not think she would pull out of it. In that moment I wondered if this would be the last day. But how could I know? I wished I could know.

As we rushed to the hospital, I felt a shift in my awareness. I told myself to stop the “what ifs”and be in each moment. When I got to her side, she motioned for me to take the oxygen mask off. Looking me in the eyes, she said in a whisper, “This is the day I am going to die.”I must admit that it took my breath away. But knowing Dottie, if anyone could pick their exit day, it would be her. I took a deep breath. I bent down and asked, “Do you know what time?”She shook her head no.

But I got an answer to my question. Yes, this was going to be the last day. It was almost 24 hours later that she took her last breath. But we, along with my brother Dave, stayed with her the entire time. One of us was always holding her hand, singing to her, saying the rosary, telling her how much we loved her. And even in her weakened state, I could hear her say back to us each time, “I Love you too.”

When the grief would well up inside me, I would say, not yet. You still have her. Be here. Open your eyes. Feel her skin, her hair. Be in the moment. As intense as it was, it was also so beautiful and life altering.

So I have been saying it even more. “What if this is the last time?”Again I don’t say it to bring up sadness. It is not about getting lost in the emotion of sadness. It is about bringing my awareness into the moment. It helps me to look into the eyes of the one I am speaking with. It has me look at each student in my yoga class and acknowledge them. It opens me to discernment, so I save my criticism for the things that REALLY matter. There are times when we must speak our truth. But many times our criticism is based on the fact that someone’s actions or words set us off because they are not doing it our way or the way we think they “should.” Anytime we think or say “should,”it is our expectations being reflected on to someone else.

“What if this is the last time …”is my way of bringing myself back to the moment I am in. It brings me into the NOW. My friend Cindy is dealing with aging parents and the natural tendency to start the grieving before anyone has moved on. You find yourself grieving because they are not the “way”they used to be or how you remember. We talked about it when her Mom went through a recent health crisis. We all age if we are fortunate enough to do so. All humans have aging in common. So be with them as they are Now. Don’t mourn how they used to be. That’s useless and just breaks your heart over and over. Acknowledge the natural process of things and open your awareness to the NOW. Be with them here. Maybe you let a few things roll off your back. Maybe you have to take a deep breath and allow them to be their eccentric selves. In the grand scheme of things, what does it matter? If it were the last time, what would you do or say? Pause. Pay attention as if there are no tomorrows. Don’t hope for more time or opportunities or blindly count on it; make use of the ones you have right now. Don’t stop yourself from reaching for their hand. Keep saying I love you even if it is never said back to you. If it is the last time, make sure you lived it true to your heart. Let your heart be free. Be kind. That kindness finds its way back to you.

I learned so much from my Mom. I am still learning. I have great gratitude that she gave me the experience of “knowing it was the last time.”I used that moment, that day, all the time to make my life richer and more meaningful.

It’s funny now how I find myself smiling at the little things about Steve that once bothered me. I open my Awareness, and I have gratitude for having him around. I find myself looking at him to capture every detail as if I might not get another opportunity. Live each day, each moment, as if it’s the only one you’ve got. That’s what is important. Namaste’

 Rob Dorgan

48 thoughts on “What If This Is The Last Time?

  1. I lost my husband… my lover… my best friend to a hospital-acquired infection earlier this year. I am so grateful that I was able to be with him in the end, to know it was the end, to have the inner resources to be strong for him, and to be able to talk to him and reassure him that he was loved and would never be forgotten, even after he lost consciousness and slowly slipped away from us. He died surrounded by friends and loved ones. As painful as it was for me, I consider those last few days a precious gift, and I am so thankful that I was holding him and talking to him as he passed on. Thank you for this article. I am at a place where I still need cleansing tears.

    1. Thank you for sharing the story of your lover, husband and best friend. My mom Dottie was 40 years older than me. At a young age I realized that I might not have her long into my adult hood— and it made me sad. Then When Steve and I were in our 40’s, we started to discuss our mortality. Both of these situations contributed to my starting to look at moments in life as, what if this is the last time. Not to be sad but to gleen every ounce of life from our moments. I am encouraged by your story. Thank you. You got every ounce of life from what you were given. Peace

  2. Rob,
    my Mum died in her sleep, age 52, I was 21. And my Dad was 48,
    it was such a shock, the whole family never knew what had hit them??!!!
    My Dad took it really bad,so being the youngest, I took the role of looking after him, ?????
    Now 22 years later I’m 44, he is really sick, he has asbestosis really bad, he struggles to breathe, he won’t stop smoking, and I think he really enjoys my husband and I running around after him!!!! He won’t do anything for himself apart from go the toilet, ( he is capable to do most things) he dislikes my son who is 23, cos he won’t run around after him, my husband works in London all week, (we live in Liverpool) when he comes home my dad sulks, pretends he’s sicker than he is???? Won’t give a minute alone, blah, blah, blah,
    My point is, every time I say one word wrong to him, I always think
    WHAT IF THIS IS THE LAST TIME???? so I end up keeping my mouth shut just in case????
    Do you have any insight, or helpful tips for me????

    Your story was amazing by the way, I wish I could of told my Mum I loved her before she fell asleep!!!
    But she always knew I did anyway xxx
    She is with me now as an angel xx

    Gaynor x

    1. Hi Gaynor— you are living an incredible opportunity for sure. We really never know about life– and sometimes people are here and then gone like your mum. I feel for your Dad. He very well could be feeling like he has been dealt a rough in hand in the game of life. But I do believe that we must be present with what ever it is we are living and try hard to choose happiness. ( I have another article on SSRC called I Choose Happiness– I hope you can read it) We all have to make choices about our life. I hope you feel like you are living your life to the fullest. I know you don’t want to have any regrets with your Dad but there is a Universal Teaching that states “we must take care of ourselves in order to take care of anyone else.” Make sure you are happy and healthy and able to enjoy life.
      You may have to have some ‘tough love’ moments with your Dad. But what ever you do be Kind and that will be a healing salve for you both.
      Remember we have an obligation to ourselves first and foremost.

      I feel my mum so much in my heart. I know yours is dwelling in your heart as well, so tell her anytime you want how much you love her. I hope tonight as you go to sleep you feel the brush of her angel wing on your cheek.

      Peace Gaynor

      Rob

  3. I find your story to be so inspirational and true to how my own thoughts tell me in my life to say the things we need to say to those who we want to now how much we love and care for them even if they do not yet respond to the openness of a forever love and also to the nurturing of a forgiving heart where it is needed.In this world that is so beautiful in so many ways imagine how more beautiful it could be if we all lived in the moments of our life and treated it with the respect it deserves because when words kind words are left unspoken ,hearts are surely broken and how sad is it if we leave it too late when we really want to have those special life moments,the ones that show love and concern and teach skills in Awareness of things that matter to our own being and to those we know and love and to the knowledge of the world in general.XX.

    1. What beautiful insight Sharyn. When we share with someone we love with not expectations of anything in return, we move into the “selfless” and there is where transformation happens for everyone— not just you and recipient but the Universe. That is the love that swirls around us and we can dip our finger into at any time. I don;t know if hearts are ever really “broken” but I do think that cracks in the outer shell can provide light and room for growth and movement. Peace to you Rob

    1. I am glad I could get those tears ducts warmed up for you today. Thank you for being such a positive force in my life. You will never know how deeply you helped build the confidence of this little Cparicorn goat. oxoxoxoxoxoxo

  4. This puts things into perspective. I’m dealing with my 83 year old dad’s health and a lot of what’s in the article, I can relate too. It brought tears but a “good soul cleansing cry”. Thank you Rob for sharing this with us. HUGS…

    1. Hi Irene; I remember times with my mom where when I left the room I would cry for the “old her” I missed. But When I looked into her eyes I knew what was inside was the same as it had always been. At about 70, Dottie would say — “You know I am the same in her as I always was. I don’t feel any different.” As I mature I understand. Enjoy your Dad in anyway you can. HUGS back at you

  5. Enjoyed reading your lovely post Rob. yes! life should teach us to live every moment Now! Beautiful !

    1. Hi Archana—thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. The NOW is all we have and yet it can be so elusive. What if its the last time is a way to keep me in the NOW more and more…… Peace Rob

  6. Thank you for this lovely post. Enjoyed reading it. yes !! life teaches us to be living in Now! sometimes we tend to forget this truth.

  7. Thank you for a little piece of clarity to what is important in life and being a human being first and formost , wishing you peace love and happiness.

    1. Thank you Kevin— We human beings are meant to experience love. So sometimes that means pulling down a few walls to express it and to give it back. I wish peace, love and happiness to you as well and with those three things each day will be bright and beautiful in some form.

  8. Rob, I don’t know you, but your story had me in tears immediately. I’m not ashamed to say that I still weep for the two most beloved people with whom I was so blessed to share this life, my incredible mother and my only love. I learned so much of what you said from my mom and I treasure each memory I have of her wisdom, her laughter and her love for each of her children. I held her hand as she took her last breath and I tried to carry what she taught me over to my beloved soulmate during his last illness. We used to lie in bed when he could no longer rise and we would talk for hours. I’ll never forget the night he died. He had been so deeply medicated and I was so afraid I wouldn’t be able to say one last “I love you.” I will never forget as he started to leave me, I leaned close and he opened his eyes and looked into mine and I saw those beautiful blue eyes for the last time and I felt his last breath as I kissed him and I know he heard my “I love you.” What I meant to say (sorry) was how lucky I was, with what I learned during my mom’s illness was to listen when Jim told a story, even if I’d heard it a dozen times and accept that our relationship was changing and it evolved into the most deep and loving friendship. Nothing was left unsaid, we shared every fear and every joy. I have no regrets about either of those relationships. I’m afraid tough I haven’t continued well enough with my family and friends who are still here. I was afraid I had nothing left to give, that I’m emotionally exhausted. I have to find my way again and remember what I learned and realize I am now coming to the time when I’ll begin to wonder how much time I, myself, have left. I hope, that by reading and reaching out I can use those experiences to cherish what is here and now and to never forget your words. I’m so glad to know you through your writings and I want to thank you again for reminding me what I now need to do…….m

    1. Hi m;
      Thank you for the tears that are running down my face– I enjoy the camaraderie of one who knows and who has had a similar experience. What a great gift your mom gave you so that your time and experience with Jim was even richer. They say our heart breaks in our human existence so we have room for growth. Perhaps that is what will happen with your family. I truly believe that we are full of joy and bliss– the cycle of life is part of our existence so savor the time with each of your loved ones. Thank you for your words, you have touched my heart tonight. Namaste. Rob

  9. Dear Rob, Loved it….tears, goodies….and I always say I Love You everyday every chance….. Love you Boyz!!!

  10. So beautiful Rob – I read it as a reflection of you and Steve. Keep writing; we are inspired by your voice!!

  11. I have to say this article hit really close to home. I have felt the impact of having a moment with a loved one that I certainly did not know would be our last. In August of 1998 Dad went to his security job at St. Luke hospital like any other day but this time, unlike any other day, he did not come back home. He suffered a major heart attack standing in the office with a co-worker. Help got there faster than it could have anywhere else but it was still too late. He was gone and there would be no good byes. I am comforted by the fact that I know that as a man of few words this is the way Dad would have preferred to go. But there we were left to trying to remember our last moments with Dad. I was distraught at first that I couldn’t remember what the last words I said to him were. It took some time for me to realize that it was okay, that Dad knew I loved him. However, since then I try to anger less, forgive more readily, and say “I love you” more freely. Thank you, Dad, for that one last life lesson and thank you, Rob, for the reminder.

    1. I am humbled that my article brought memories of such a great man into your heart. Jim Bogart– the gentle, loving one! Sigh. A new mantra for me; ” Anger less, forgive more readily and say, I Love You more freely” Thank you sweetheart. and thank you Jim and Pat for the gift of my beautiful cousin/sister. MUAH!!!

  12. Thanks for sharing Rob – beautiful article. My whole family was together with my mom when she died. Today it is one of my most treasured memories. I am so glad I was there and present for it.

  13. I have been using this concept for years. Everytime I get my kids/grandkids together about twice a year, I get them all in the one room and say “this may be the last time we have this opportunity to get together, etc”. They have grown to expect that moment from me and may not really grasp the meaning. But, at least I feel fulfilled in trying. Besides, if we truly believe in the after-life or next world, there is nothing to worry about.
    Larry

    1. There is nothing to worry about Larry. lol
      The Buddha said–“When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky—”

      Next time we kayak– let’s do just that–tilt our heads back and laugh at the sky!!
      Peace-
      Rob

    1. Matt— your experience with your Dad’s passing at such a young age, effected me deeply. I believe be so near you daily with that, helped me open my eyes to everything with Dottie. Thank you. Rob

  14. Not surprisingly, I am deeply moved by your story, Rob, as it so hits home to my life on this very day. As we were in yoga class tonight and you suggested we dedicate the Shine of our poses of all that positive energy to someone, I was dedicating mine to Carol, the first wife of my husband. At that very moment in our class tonight he was 300 miles away basically saying “I’m so sorry” for my lack of knowledge and discipline when the hard times came in their marriage – which resulted in divorce – and a world of pain for them and their daughter so many years ago – as Carol appears to be in the last hours of her life. I could make a similar comment to my first husband.

    Life teaches us so much … both of us in our earlier years did not think about “what if this is the last time” – and we both have many regrets. We feel very fortunate that life/God gave us both an opportunity to earn happiness again and to learn from mistakes made in our youthful years. And at the last minute, my husband did get the chance to say what needed to be said – literally – at what IS likely the last time to the first love of his life. Of course, this is not exactly a “feel good” comment I am making about this overall, but it brings home the point of “what if this is the last time” … because sooner or later it will be, we just don’t know when – and how wonderful to live most of your life if not ALL of it putting every comment/act/choice to that test.

    Excellent article – and excellent advice. Namaste!

    1. I am grateful to have you in my life. Thank you for your comments. I am glad that your husband had the opportunity to say all the things he wanted and needed to say. Once we open our eyes to, ” what if this is the last time” it is liberating and freeing with each of our encounters. Namaste bright one. Keeping shining bright. xoxoxoxo Rob

  15. I hug and kiss my children, and husband each and every time they walk out the door. I know they find it annoying sometimes, they try to sneak out without a kiss, – but I always catch them and say “I love you”. It may be the last time, who knows. I know I’ve shown my love to them and it makes my day ! XXOO

    1. Fabulous— it makes your day and it sets your heart and soul free.
      Thank you for this. You and your family inspire me with the way you live your lives and your noticeable love for each other. Namaste.

  16. Thank you for such a moving article – I lost both of my parents and treasured each moment with them – we all get older and I hope that some day my daughter will be able to share each moment with me as I did my parents

    1. Thank you Paula. “Treasuring the moment” is another way to say, what if its the last time. I hope your daughter is treasuring her moments with you right now. maybe have her read the article. 🙂 Peace

  17. Wow….what a n article! Loved it. It’s actually a gift that I’ll use all my life. Thank you very much 🙂

      1. Hey Rob; I stumbled upon your blog and was very touched by your writings regarding your mom. I don’t know if you’ll see this or not, but thought I’d share my story. It’s long, so I’ll understand if you don’t read the whole thing. Here goes….On September 11, 1991, I lost my only sibling. My brother Bob was 40, three years older than I. He passed away from Non Hodgkins Lymphoma, caused from Agent Orange during time spent in the Vietnam War. Living in different states made it difficult, but I flew to see him in FL, and was able to spend a great deal of time with him. I sat by his hospital bed and we talked for several hours every day. I came there with this blackboard full of issues regarding our lives. When I left to go back home to MI, the blackboard of issues was erased and all that remained was I Love You. I was not able to get back there in time before he passed away, so have always been incredibly grateful for that time we spent together. We had not seen each other in 10 years, so it was even more bittersweet. Our mom had been diagnosed with lung cancer in 1989. She had surprised all the doctors by going into remission for 18 months. I believe the guilt, (she hadn’t spoken to him in over 10 years either) and stress from his passing brought her out of remission. The cancer came back with a vengeance and had spread to her brain. Many things now became my responsibility, and having to call my new partner at work and telling her I wouldn’t be home until it was over was very difficult to say the least. Mom wanted to die at home and her boyfriend of 25 years was useless, so I once again, became the parent in our relationship. I slept on the couch across from her hospice bed. For weeks I took care of her as it became more and more difficult to deal with. The whole time I was taking care of her, I could literally feel my brother tapping me on the shoulder. I would tell him “not now Bobby, not now. I haven’t even dealt with YOUR death yet!” My partner was becoming resentful with my absence. She also knew my childhood history and wasn’t too fond of my mom. She said to me one day when angry and visiting me at moms “Do you honestly think she would take care of YOU if this were reversed?” I tried to explain to her that it didn’t matter what mom would do. What mattered is that I did what I felt was good and right so I wouldn’t do the typical Virgo woulda, coulda, shoulda game with myself. That time with my mom was the closest we ever were in my entire life. Before it spread to her brain, we talked. I mean, REALLY talked. She told me how much she loved, admired and respected me. Never hearing any of this prior, it meant more to me than anyone will ever know. She then started not knowing who we were as it spread further into her brain. I would tell her “It’s okay, just let go.” She would respond with “What about Jan, who’s going to take care of Jan?” I told her that I thought Jan was going to be okay. She didn’t realize she was talking to Jan (me). When the time came on December 11, 1992 (exactly 15 months to the day of my brother) I dropped the railing on her bed, climbed in next to her and kept telling her how much I loved her. That she would be just fine and so would I. She was only 59 years old, I was only 38. I sat with her for about an hour after she passed, it was just so hard to leave her. It was then though, that it became incredibly clear to me what my brother was trying to tell me. The words were simple, yet so poignant….”I’ve got her sis, it’s okay, I’ve got her.”

        I think about them a great deal, though sharing my story is not a frequent thing. Thanks for giving me a forum to do just that. 🙂 One thing I feel incredibly blessed for, is that God gave me something with both of them that many never get….time. The opportunity to say and hear everything that needs to be said and heard. Thanks Rob, just….thanks.

        1. Hi Jan;
          I feel humbled that you shared your story with me. Not an easy thing for a virgo to do– so thank you. I know we have never met, but we have a connection for sure. We both knew that freedom for us was in doing the right thing at that moment. All the inconveniences we experienced would fade but the love we received and the freedom we have by being able to breathe deep and relax – guilt free- are lifetime gifts.
          So much of our lives is about letting go and letting LOVE in. It is not an easy lesson but a worthwhile one.

          I sat with my Mom for hours after her transition. I was still holding on. I realize finally that she is in my heart always and I can visit with her anytime. Those gifts of love, admiration and respect that she gave you in those final weeks will be with you always. Enjoy the rich family ties you have with your Mom and Brother. Sometimes if takes a lifetime……… Peace Jan. Rob

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