I learned, recently, that this is a common phrase among my family members – “an hour of life, is life.” I remember the first time I heard my mom use the phrase, not more than a few years ago, I latched onto it immediately. Since then, I have realize that many of my relatives use the phrase – it’s kind of a family mantra, which makes sense, then, that when I heard it, it reverberated within me—“Yes! An hour of life is life.”
To me it was a clarion call to not waste a single hour – to never think, “Oh, but I only have an hour…” and instead embrace the hour for all its potentiality—I have an hour, what will I do with it?
On the other end of things, for years I’ve had a recurring dream of my dying. I am driving a bus but I have no vision—either because of dense fog or deep darkness. I’m steering blind on a steep mountain, driving on very windy roads, a bus full of people, and the brakes have given out! I am driving for our lives and am surprised that I’ve been able to stay on the road and guess the turns for as long as I have. But, eventually, inevitably, I end up driving us off the road to our death.
In my dream there is total calm and surrender as the bus floats, falls, the downward distance to the ground far below. I am fully aware of the moment and peacefully think, “This is it. This is the end, and it’s happening now. This is how I go.” And in that downward falling time, I begin to send out my thoughts/messages to all the people I love. I consciously think of my mom and my dad and send them love. I let them know that I think they are amazing and that I couldn’t have asked for anyone better. I let them know that I’m ok and that I am leaving well and in peace. From there, I think through a list of my beloved people and “send” them my messages and my love…
I’ve always found it curious that I dream of my dying this way, and that there is a complete sense of peace and acceptance about it. There’s also the experience and sensation of being suspended in air, the slow-motion downward fall that becomes a chance to send love, affirmation, and reassurances to my loved ones. I have never minded the dream. It mostly just trips me out.
Now, in living time 😊, two Sundays ago, I went on a 12-hour walk. I did this after my friend mentioned that she was doing this and after reading the corresponding book by the same title. The idea is to be with just yourself, walking at your own pace and resting as needed, but challenging yourself to keep going for 12 hours without any external input – no music, no podcast, no phone calls or conversation – just you, with you.
It was challenging in the physical sense—my right knee started hurting after 6 hours and the day I scheduled myself to go on the walk the weather was cold and drizzly throughout, so that was a bit unpleasant. But mentally and emotionally, all was well. I enjoyed myself and I especially enjoyed the parks and plants through which I walked all day. I also learned that I very easily think about the teaching lessons that I can create from the things I see and discover as I go through my day.
All this brings me full circle, to this very random thought-experiment: If I only had an hour left of life, what would I do?
During my walk, I discovered what I would do with my “una hora de vida.” I would go to the park, out into nature, even if just a nearby patch of earth (I do live in the city after all), and I would sit on the ground and write. I would breathe, take in the air, feel it fill my lungs. I would feel the earth beneath me, around me, and the sky above me. I would smile at them all and I would thank them, grateful to have gotten to take part in their whole. And then I would use the hour to write. I would put my love into words for my family and friends to read. I would tell them I’m ok; that I am grateful for their love and for their being. That they are good and that I was lucky to have been a part of them.
I would sit there and feel the whole, the whole of which I have gotten to be part, and I would acknowledge and feel the connection to it all.
Once done writing, I would fold the paper and sign my scribbly signature on the outside. I would hold it to my heart in gratitude for the time I had with all the people I love. I would say out loud, I love you, and I would smile.
Una hora de vida, es vida…what might you do with yours?
Xochitl Alvizo, loves all things feminist, womanist, and decolonial. She often finds herself on the boundary of different social and cultural contexts, and works hard to develop her voice and to hear and encourage the voice of others. Her work is inspired by the conviction that all people are inextricably connected and what we do, down to the smallest thing, matters; it makes a difference for good or for ill. She teaches in the area of Women and Religion, and the Philosophy of Sex, Gender, and Sexuality, at California State University, Northridge. She lives in Los Angeles, CA where she was also born and raised.