What If You Knew You’d Be the Last To…?

What if you knew you’d be the last

to touch someone?




If you were taking tickets, for example,

at the theatre, tearing them,

giving back the ragged stubs,

you might take care to touch that palm,

brush your fingertips

along the life line’s crease.

When a man pulls his wheeled suitcase

too slowly through the airport, when

the car in front of me doesn’t signal,

when the clerk at the pharmacy

won’t say, “Thank you,” I don’t remember

they’re going to die.

A friend told me she’d been with her aunt.

They’d just had lunch and the waiter,

a young gay man with plum black eyes,

joked as he served the coffee, kissed

her aunt’s powdered cheek when they left.

Then they walked half a block and her aunt

dropped dead on the sidewalk.

How close does the dragon’s spume

have to come? How wide does the crack

in heaven have to split?

What would people look like

if we could see them as they are,

soaked in honey, stung and swollen,

reckless, pinned against time?

Ellen Bass


As we approach the USA publication of my new book Before I Go: The Essential Guide to Creating A Good End of Life Plan , I have a question for you, based on this poem, which requires you to just pause for a moment.

Notice the sounds around you, and the sensations in your body – bring your attention inwards.  Then ask yourself:

What can I appreciate about someone in my life, right now?  How could I express that to them?

Listen with all your senses for the answer – it may come in words, in a gut feeling, an image, or a just a general sense.

I invite you this week to communicate that to this person. Give them a kiss, as the waiter in the poem did – not because they might die any moment (although that might happen), but just because you can, because you care.

And because contemplating death is all about appreciating life.


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