On Saturday January 13, 2018 this notification came across my phone’s screen:
Emergency Alert. BALLASTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.
I stopped thinking and grabbed my baby, my Bible and a giant blanket. I was headed for the ocean. I watched my neighbors weeping, dashing for stairwells and the darker parts of the parking garage. I felt none of their panic or fear. But I did feel urgency. For one more moment of breathing, heart-beating life. Just one more beautiful moment. “Please Father God. Just let me have ONE more.” I had good practice for what I wanted that one more moment to be. My daily planner often asks “if this was your last day, what would you want to do?” There are three lines for me to fill and sometimes I switch it up but inevitably one of those lines is always: OCEAN. I knew I wanted our last twenty minutes to be on the ocean even if it took seven minutes to get there. Getting out of the building was like moving through molasses; it felt like everything was in slow motion. I remember watching the elevator light up the floors and counting them out loud with my daughter: 15, 14, 13. I remember the feeling of the wind on my face and in my hair as I loaded my daughter into the car. I felt it bristle through individual strands and the connection at my scalp. I felt the weight of her body. I could feel the bones in her rib cage as I pondered whether the car seat was relevant in a nuclear bomb pending moment. I was in my body. (For those of us who often disassociate to survive you know how profound it is when your soul comes barreling into your body and you have the audacity to inhabit your being as your full self.) Many people were dashing to hide in dark holes and I was racing to get to the light. EVERYTHING in me said to do the opposite of what they were all doing. I figured a ballistic missile delivering a nuclear weapon to this sweet island would wipe us all out in an instant. We’d be gone before our minds could even register that it hit. Only an actual oxygenated, fully stocked, underground bunker would really help. Since I didn’t know where one of those was, I was headed to the beach in pajamas to have one last moment in the sun.
As Savannah and I built our sandcastles, I just thanked God for the journey. I was scanning through my memories when I realized I’ve had a very dense life. I started speaking in churches at 11, founded a non profit at 12, was honored by Congress at 15, fell in crazy stupid love at 18, wrote a book at 22, adventured on every continent by 25. I’ve been hard at work for as long as I can remember. So as I replayed the journey of my life I didn’t find myself desperate for more years. I just praised God. For it all. I had had enough years it seemed. It wasn’t a perfect journey but it was beautiful. My daughter was my greatest gift. I would do it all again just for her. Every valley, every tear, every loss. Just to get to her. Then the stunning realization came that that’s how much God loves us and so much more. I thanked God for the honor of being Savannah’s mother. I drank in the scene of her, laughing and running naked in the waves. She had been the personification of her name on earth—Savannah: full of life. She wasn’t named for a small southern town. She was named for the Savannah in Eastern Africa — a place bursting with life. To me, she had been an elephant migration of power, an earth shaking, ruby red and blood orange horizon-wide sunset of beauty. She had been magnificent to behold, somehow so wild and yet so graceful. At two years old, she was blissfully unaware of why I was singing Bible verses and drawing hearts and circles around her in the sand. She didn’t know I thought this could be the end of our time on earth and she didn’t think anything odd of my behavior. It wasn’t the first time I had drawn a circle around her in the sand and prayed mightily over her life. And it wouldn’t be the last. When we received the false alarm, I smiled. We weren’t done yet. We had been given the gift of more time. I went back to building sandcastles with my daughter and discovered I was in the midst of one of the most profound metaphors of my life.
Maybe this is all so many of us humans get to do: “build sandcastles.” Our work can get washed away. Even if it doesn’t, the next generations may not remember us at all. What is the point of it all again? Maybe: if we get to “build sandcastles” or do our life’s work with joy in our hearts, filled with love, surrounded by love, then it’s all worth it. Maybe that’s what it means to glorify God. Maybe Christ consciousness is really about consciously stepping into the reality that we are love personified and having reverence for the truth of that fact about every single one of us. No matter what.
Life was never meant to be about getting money or things or real castles we could leave behind for our children. We are living to love. We are LIVING to LOVE. We are living to love our God, ourselves, our work, our families, our neighbors, our planet. So it’s ok if the only thing you ever build is a sandcastle that gets washed away.
This would have been my last will and testament: This life has always all ways been about LOVE. May you right now have all the audacity you need to heal and fulfill your purpose, which is to do it all with love.
I’ve started taking my daily planner prompt to heart and I hope to encourage you to do the same.
“What would you do today if it was your last?”
It’s not a one-time question. I set the question as a daily reminder in my phone now. The brilliance of it is in the repetition of having to answer it outside of the drama of a life or death moment or a new years resolution-style exercise. The daily-ness of it makes it lose its sharp edge. Your answer to the question then can’t become the foundation of a five year plan or a “before age 50” bucket list that brings out long term goals instead of daily joys. The question is really: what would you do with these 24 hours? Just having to imagine that if in between the daycare pick up and the conference calls and trying to dash to the post office before five, this was it, I’m reminded of how precious this regular day is. Then the question becomes, given everything I am committed to today, what can I do today to be happy? And further, can I be brave enough to start making more space for those things now?
I’ve asked a few friends this question since receiving that false alarm and the consensus seems to be a longing to experience more love/joy/peace. Call mom and tell her I love her. Go surfing. Make love. Write everything I know and leave it for my daughter in journal. Take the kids hiking with no phones. Drive to the desert and see that epic starscape one last time.
I think what I really learned is that our answer to what we would do on our last day is who we really are. So let’s do more of that. Let’s be more of ourselves. I dare you to inhabit your authentic identity by doing whatever you can to feel all the love, joy and peace you would want to feel on your last day.
It’s been a few days since the missile didn’t drop and so far, I’ve been to the ocean every day and started telling strangers I love them. I’m so grateful to have more time to love.
PS: no judgement for how anyone chose to respond to this. If you hid in a stairwell and cried or ran naked in the street, God bless us all.Browse Front PageShare Your Idea
Read Elephant’s Best Articles of the Week here.
Readers voted with your hearts, comments, views, and shares:
Click here to see which Writers & Issues Won.