Living Every Day Like It’s Your Last
A Funeral for Platitudes


It was a graveside service at El Toro Memorial Park. The default minister was a born again Christian who aimed his improvisational evangelicism at the Jews and Muslims who were present — attempting to convert them.  What an asshole.

Some of my friends said they “couldn’t bring themselves” to support the flower industry so they didn’t remember my soon-to-be buried mother with her favorite material thing — flowers.  I guess they never heard of picking their own.

My cousin Wendy said my Mother’s funeral was “boring.” “I wanted to stand up and put people in a better sense of humor,” she said. Poor dumb Wendy.

Wendy is in her 50s.  There’s no excuse for her.  “The service was missing a ‘Live every day like it’s your last’ speech or something,” she said.

“This may not be the right time to talk about this,” I answered, standing next to my mother’s coffin.  “But living every day like it’s your last is ridiculous. It sounds like a curse or a way of life for end of the world prophesizers — your own private dooms day.”

The first thing I’d do if I actually knew these were my final 24-hours is panic.  Then I think time would slow down.  (Or at least I’d try to make it slow down to distract myself from crying for the next 24 straight hours.) What would I do?  I’d sort through the people I love.  Tell them the bad news. And by then, the end of life as I know it would be nipping at my butt.  Thrill seeking would be desperate and dumb. Doing drugs might be an option, but then I’d be stoned for the rest of my life.  I think I’d like to set aside some sober time.

I’d probably eat some good cheese.  Take some deep breaths.  Listen to some choice music. Read a little — maybe some Whitman, Rumi or Bukowski — a few paragraphs tops.

I wouldn’t want to wait in line, or start a novel, or fly somewhere, or go shopping.  As a lark I might want to dig my own grave.  (As if I already haven’t.)  At least in the digging, I’d be putting myself to good use.

Would I arrange for my funeral?
Have a party?
Kill someone?  There’s plenty of candidates.
Maybe I could help the needy.  That’s it.  Work the narcissist guilt.  Give my possessions to charity and make a video about it.

My derision for living every day as if it’s my last doesn’t mean I think you shouldn’t take advantage of every moment.  But creating that advantage usually takes time.  Most things that are worthwhile do take time.  Otherwise, you’re acting on impulse — spontaneously celebrating your distractions.  I know people who live like that. They’re generally high-strung, do-what-you-want, go-for-it, dingbats.  Let’s do it — like Gary Gilmore.  Or you, Wendy.  Are you a live-every-moment-like-it’s-you’re-last, champing at the bit to have fun girl? Let’s dance on my mother’s grave.

Speaking of the dearly departed, one of the last things my mother asked me was, “Do you remember when you were 17, Nathan, and a bottle of slo gin that you were hiding in your jacket slipped out shattering and spilling on my kitchen floor?”

“Yes,” I said to my mother.

“Do you remember what you said then?” my mother asked me.

“Yes, I do” I answered.  “One day, we’ll laugh about this.”

Mom smiled at my memory. I think she even laughed.  I held her hand and told her I loved her.  She was living like it was her last day.  And it was. 

— Nathan Callahan

First Broadcast October 26, 2012

© / Nathan Callahan / all rights reserved


Broadcasting Fridays at 8:50 am from KUCI 88.9 fm Orange County, California