For the past couple of years, I have been consistently embracing a practice that many of the ancient traditions observed – to treat every encounter as if it were my last. It is a practice that is borne out of a recognition that everything is impermanent and ephemeral.
Every Sunday at noon, almost without exception, I visit my father and his wife for lunch. Accompanying me is usually one of my children, depending on what’s happening that particular Sunday. Lunch with Popa as we affectionately call it is one of my favorite times of the week. They live in a two-bedroom apartment, about ¾ of a mile from where I live. Vestiges of my father’s European/Jewish heritage are evident everywhere, including a table full of smoked fish, pickled vegetables, and desserts – not to mention the incessant demands to eat more food than we actually need or want. The whole scene is sweet. We spend our time catching up on the week we’ve just had, with my dad and his wife mostly sharing about their excursions to various healthcare professionals and me showing pictures of our puppy or fixing something that has mysteriously gone wrong with the one smartphone they share.
A few Sundays ago, I hugged and kissed them goodbye. I began my climb down the stairs from their 5th floor apartment. As I reached the third-floor landing, something struck me. I had been particularly distracted when I had been saying my goodbyes, so much so that I could barely remember leaving them. I thought to myself, “What if this were the last chance I ever had to hold and kiss my father?” In that split second, I debated whether to turn back around. Part of me thought it would seem strange. The better part of me fortunately prevailed, and I headed back up the stairs. I knocked on the door. My father answered and asked if I had forgotten something. I looked at him and simply told him that I just wanted to hug him again. I held him for several seconds, kissing him on the top of his head. I looked into his somewhat bewildered face and I could tell that deep down he realized exactly what I was doing. It was a moment to treasure forever. I left and walked down the stairs again, tears of joy streaming down my face. At that moment, I believed I experienced what Joseph Campbell famously called “the rapture of being alive.”
For the past couple of years, I have been consistently embracing a practice that many of the ancient traditions observed – to treat every encounter as if it were my last. It is a practice that is borne out of a recognition that everything is impermanent and ephemeral. That the next second of time is never guaranteed. I have found this simple act to be transformational. It wakes me up from the anesthetized state into which it is so easy to fall. And it enables a deep presence and immersion into the beauty of each and every connection in my life. It means I do a lot of hugging. My wife and children can’t leave the house without me running towards them and embracing them. What a gift that is to me. And hopefully to them. And it doesn’t just need to be relationships. We have the opportunity to savor everything as if it were our last. A hot cup of coffee. A walk through nature. The smell of flowers. A good book. Even as I write these very words, this practice reminds me to treasure the time writing. What if this were the last weekly email I write? That question itself transforms the act of writing from a regular occurrence to something sacred and deeply meaningful.
May your week be filled with opportunities to pause, wake up, and take in the incredible gifts in every second of your day.
No matter who you are or where you live, it’s likely that you’ve experienced some shortage of the goods you typically consumed. Here’s a really good explanation for why.
Adam Grant has a great list of the top 12 leadership books to read this summer.
The quote that caught my attention this week: “We have sunk to such a depth that the restatement of the obvious has become the first duty of intelligent men.” – George Orwell