I was asked to clearly imagine myself lying on my own deathbed, and tofully realize the feelings connected with dying and saying good-bye. Then she asked me to mentally invite the people in my life who were important to me to visit my bedside, one at a time. As I visualizedeach friend and relative coming in to visit me, I had to speak to them out loud. I had to say to them what I wanted them to know as I was dying.
As I spoke to each person, I could feel my voicebreaking. Somehow I couldn't help breaking down. My eyes were filled with tears. I experienced such a sense of loss. It was not my o wn life I was mourning; it was the love I was losing. To be moreexact, it was a communication of love that had never been there.
During this difficult exercise, I really got to see how much I'd left out of my life. How many wonderful feelings I had about my children,for example, that I'd never explicitly expressed.
At the end of the exercise, I was an emotional mess. I had rarely cried that hard in my life. But when those emotions cleared, a wonderful thinghappened. I was clear. I knew what was really important, and who really mattered to me. I understood for the first time what George Patton meant when he said, "Death can be more exciting than life."From that day on I vowed not to leave anything to chance. I made up my mind never to leave anything unsaid. I wanted to live as if I might die any moment. The entire experience altered the way I'verelated to people ever since. And the great point of the exercise wasn't lost on me: We don't have to wait until we're actually near death to receive these benefits of being mortal. We can create theexperience anytime we want.
A few years later when my mother lay dying in a hospital in Tucson, I rushed to her side to hold her hand and repeat to her all the love and gratitude I felt for who she...