Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

Six Months to Live?

Do you find time slipping through your fingers?

Here’s a question for reflection to help us remember the preciousness of this life:

What would you do if you only had six months to live?  Would your life be different than it is now?  How and why would that be?  How might that influence your life now?

Here’s my answer.  Finances permitting, I would retreat from the world, to a large degree, and focus on meditation and resting in the essence of mind instead of all the thoughts and projections.  The intention would be to stabilize my mind so that I will be able to meet death with greater confidence, clarity, and ease.

At the same time, I would aspire to more readily release the spring of love and compassion that hides away within me – and you too!  Recent events have reminded me that I need far more practice in living from the heart.  I would also want to see my family, all of whom live a zillion miles away.

I wouldn’t waste my time with a bucket list trying to capture and claim fleeting experiences.  While I appreciate beauty, I know it’s ephemeral at best.

I would give away all my material possessions or designate them for others so I had less attachment at the moment of death.  The ultimate simplicity experiment!

Taking a moment to consider impermanence like this, makes me wonder how I can live more intentionally in the present moment?  How can I make every moment have meaning?

Remember Dying to Get Your Priorities Straight

These are phrases that can be reflected upon daily to remind us to get our priorities straight and live right now with a full heart.

A reflection on impermanence from the Buddhist tradition:

“Death is real.  Comes without warning.  This body will be a corpse.”

A reflection on impermanence from the Christian tradition:

“Memento Mori” ~ “Remember You Will Die”

Six months to live.  What would you do?

This is part of my series of compelling questions:  reflections to help us enrich our lives.  Thank you for reading and sharing!  If you enjoyed this article please subscribe for free updates by email.  With love,  Sandra

Image:  Public Domain



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  1. I enjoy using this question to focus on what is important to me in life.

    Funny how much different my list would be. 🙂 We all respond to life and death differently. I would not retreat from the world, but engage it more fully. There are places and things I want to experience.

    Dan Garner

    • Hi Dan,

      I’m glad you enjoyed using this question to focus on what’s important to you in life! Yes, we’re all different and will probably have very different answers indeed.

  2. Death.

    Our inevitable end.

    We rush toward it when we’re young, so eager to get older. Then we try to slow our pace as it gets harder to deny that each birthday moves us closer.

    If I knew (for sure) that I had 6 months to live, I’d have a big party to celebrate my life. That way my kids can skip the funeral festivities later (although they’re likely to do it anyway.)

    Like you I’d do a major giveaway of material possessions that my kids don’t want (as long as they pick it up promptly) except my laptop and phone. I’ll need those a little while longer.

    Next, I’d go on a trip to the continents and major countries I haven’t seen yet before returning home to get quiet and contemplative in the last days. While travelling, I’ll be writing like crazy.

    All of these plans are based on the assumption that I’ll be healthy and physically fit enough to carry all this out.

    I’ve had the sad experience of watching a few friends and relatives in their last months. They were always either fighting to breathe or taking medication to keep the pain at bay.

    The truth is that I can’t predict exactly how I would feel, especially if I received this news from a doctor. My first reaction would be to not believe him. I’ve refused to accept the doctor’s verdict before.

    • Hi Flora,

      It was so interesting to read your ruminations! I love the idea of celebrating your life. I think we would all be shocked if we were to hear this news from the doctor. I know people who have beaten the odds, so we never know for certain one way or the other, this minute, the next, or many moments from now! Thanks for your thoughts.

  3. Wow. I learn so much from other’s reflections, thank you for opening such a wonderful conversation!

    I wouldn’t do anything differently (such a relief to know!). A year ago this month I was on bed rest, in the midst of weeks of testing to see if my body was rejecting my stomach (it wasn’t). It was my being rejecting the external circumstances of my life that weren’t in alignment. Transformation is a practice of presence, so it is with faith and joy that I commit presence to the moment. I wouldn’t have changed external so radically, but now I feel such deep, radical love and gratitude for the moment, for life…as it is.. “messy and imperfect”, “idyllic and magical”. I have *so much* to learn, but I feel the wonder in it now 🙂

    • Hi Joy,

      I agree with you so fully that presence is a practice for each and every moment! That is my practice and aspiration too. I admire the way you are so willing to open to all that unfolds!

  4. Hi Sandra,

    What a beautiful question to look into.

    I certainly wouldn’t be bothering with a bucket list, I thought you summed up beautifully why that’s not the best option.

    I would shift my focus onto the aspects of life that are most important to me: family, friends, and lots of time for introspection.

    The beauty of returning, over and over, to the idea of our inevitable death is that it throws a light on how we live now, and we give ourselves another chance to edge closer to our true purpose in life.

    Thanks for the reminder 🙂

    • Hi Dave,

      I think you’ve captured the whole point of this exercise so beautifully in your last paragraph! We seem to be in alignment as to where our priorities would be. 🙂 It’s great to “meet” you and thanks for taking the time to contribute in the comments.

  5. jean sampson

    Hi Sandra—-I really have enjoyed everyone’s answers. I probably wouldn’t live very differently than I do now, except that I would give up all concern and worry about the future! I would go to friends and family and tell each one how special and wonderful I think they are—-I might even make them a written list or a special poem. I do that sort of thing anyway, because people are never as kind to themselves as they should be, and I always love to remind folks of their special and beautiful qualities. I hate to see people not loving and appreciating themselves! I would give away all of my stuff and let people who really love my paintings have them! I also might arrange to have my poetry published so it would be all in one place. I would hire some folks to come and help me get my physical house in order so I could be surrounded by beauty and order! I would have some friends over to watch old Carol Burnett shows and maybe Andy Griffith, too. We would do some laughing!
    I would quit taking all those vitamins and eat me some ice cream and cookies. I might even throw in some chips, too! 🙂 I would spend some time up in our beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and maybe get to the ocean, too. If it were possible, I would go and hug all of my precious new Face Book and Blog friends and spend a little time giving them love, too.
    What a wonderful question! I am going to keep it present in my daily life! <3

    • Jean,

      I smiled all the way through your response. I love the idea of giving up all concern and worry about the future. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could do that now? And, I’m so inspired by the way you try to be a beacon of love for others right now and how you would accelerate that even more. I’ll join you for the ice cream, cookies, and chips. 🙂 You are a beautiful being. I feel so blessed by your response and all the responses here. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Keep spreading the love!

  6. I am a little stunned, Sandra. The day before yesterday, I was making notes for future posts – you know – jotting down random ideas I could develop on. One of the things I wrote was “If you had one year to live, how would you live it?” So fancy seeing your post today in my mailbox! I am just amazed. And thrilled, too.

    There used to be a time when the idea of Death made me worry – the permanence of ceasing to exist seemed sad beyond thought. As life went by, I lost many close friends and family members in freak accidents and due to illnesses. Gradually, I was beginning to think “Live as if you were to die tomorrow”. When I see natural disasters reported in the news, it suddenly brings home to me the fact that we should never wait to do something we intend to. We shouldn’t delay our “I love yous”

    So, if I had six months to live, I have a list of priorities. 🙂 I would love to travel the world, or at the very least, Skype with all the people I know and tell them how much I appreciate them. I’d distribute all my savings and investments to orphanages and old age homes. I would speed up my “donate one thing per day’ to much more, taking stock to see how much I must give away to be free at the end of five months. 🙂 I would do as much as I can for all the people I love. I would everyone what is the one thing they want from me and give it to them.

    Having said that, except for the savings distribution, I am inspired to do the rest of the things I mentioned.

    Hugs. I feel a connection to you. Love, Vidya

    • We seem so in sync, don’t we, Vidya? Naturally, I think this is still a great idea to write about on your site! The more we can spread this kind of thinking, the better, I’d say.

      I see in what you write here how much love is at the core of your existence! That is so inspiring and I see your love rippling out in so many ways. I feel very grateful to know you and be connected to you in this wild, wireless way!

  7. I agree with Flora Morris Brown above. I cannot say how I would react. I think I would turn inward and want to make life as simple and peaceful as possible for the remaining time. I do not think that I would have a bucket list. Maybe a few things. It would be difficult not to want to spend all the time I could with my kids or other loved ones.

    I hope that when death does come for me that I am as at peace with it as I seem to be now. I view it as just a transition. How do we know it is not a birth into something better? Plus, I fully believe that, in some way, we will get to be with others that have passed. I look forward to that.

    • Hi Debbie,

      I agree with you and Flora! As much as we prepare, it’s still bound to be a shock. But I see you have cultivated a huge amount of peace and acceptance in your life already and my guess is that you will meet death with grace.

      I like the questions you ask. Yes, let’s birth into something even better! Why not!

    • I love “wild and wireless” – can I borrow it for a post title, do you think? Hugs! I love our connection, too!

  8. This is such a great topic to ponder. I would certainly focus more on being in nature.

    My soul longs to view and be in the mountains for some reason! I’ve been living in a non-mountainous are for some time now and this topic is making me question why am I really living here!

    Thank you!! -joanne

    • Hi JoAnne,

      So happy to receive your comment! In particular because it raises a consideration that’s on my mind often, spending more time in nature. It sounds like the mountains are calling you! Thanks for sharing your response.

  9. It was a similar question that prompted several changes in my life, including going minimalist. While death itself wasn’t an immediate threat, physical incapacity was, and I wanted to go through all my stuff and make keep/reject/donate/destroy choices while I could. I also didn’t want to leave the mess for my husband and son to deal with, just in case. I wanted to assure some dignity, I think, because death and incapacity can be pretty humbling.

    But then, of course, the question wouldn’t go away, and it popped up about the rest of my life, including my work, and a possible bucket list. The bucket list was rejected almost immediately, for the same reason you did. All I wanted to end up with was a good marriage, a good relationship with my son, my personal shit sorted out, and to leave behind a body of work that I was happy with.

    As of this date, I am focused on the body of work–the other things are happily in place. Life is quite different than it was before the question came into consideration, and already a darn sight more dignified, peaceful, and rewarding.

    • Hi Meg,

      That sounds dramatic and it seems like you have been through a lot. I like the compassion behind your push to clean up and simplify your life. When death comes, we certainly don’t want to be entangled in all these minor material considerations, at least I don’t!

      Your clarity of focus is beautiful. It seems like the process may have been challenging, but has been the impetus for you to blossom fully, which is an inspiration for all of us!

  10. I enjoyed your answer and also all the answers in the comments. I am more like you in that I would retreat inward rather than start checking things off my list. I would also spend as much time with my kids and grandkids as possible. Part of my job as a parent is to prepare my kids to live without me. I’ve done my best with that, but they are still young adults, and I would do what I could to not only enjoy their company, but to prepare them to make the transition to life without me.

    • Hi Galen,

      We are soul sisters in certain ways! I don’t have children, but I certainly appreciate your sense of both responsibility and love in helping ready them for your transition when the time comes. Hopefully that will be many years away. May you live long and benefit many with your love and kindness.

  11. Thanks, Sandra, for bringing up this important question. It’s not easy to think of dying but something all of us will experience. And, when we think of dying, I think it’s an opportunity for us to live more fully each day.

    If I only had six months to live, I like to think I would celebrate each day without any regrets about what I “coulda, shoulda, woulda” done differently.

    For a while now I’ve been on a mission to simplify my life and I don’t mean just clearing out clothes from my closet or shredding papers. Although that is part of it but for me it also means eliminating mind clutter and replacing it with calmness and serenity and surrounded by the people I love. Simplifying also means that I put into place such things as a medical directive and funeral arrangements so that my family doesn’t have the added pain of making these decisions.

    I hope that when I transition, my legacy would be that I brought some joy to the world with every connection I made.

    • Gladys,

      I really love your focus on considering how you can live with regrets! That’s a sure way to make life meaningful and complete. I also feel very aligned with your focus on simplicity, especially clearing out the clutter of the mind! Your beautiful smiles brings us all a dose of joy! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  12. A thought provoking post and a bold one too.
    Seeing life as a journey with an end can focus our non attachment to material possessions. I agree that to make time for others and to show them our love will make our temporary lives more meaningful and fulfilled. Thanks, I don’t have my complete answer right now but I’m going to be thinking about this today 🙂

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