I hope I don’t die before…

Someone I know stated that she hoped she didn’t die before publishing a book. I replied that I used to feel that way myself. Nowadays, I hope I don’t die before I finish raising my children.

She believed I’d chided her, but I wasn’t implying judgment at all: I really did used to feel that way. I honestly would hope that every single person who reads here has a chance to fulfill his or her dreams before dying, whether it’s traveling around the world, deep-sea diving, publishing a book, or raising her/his children. I’m not in the business of weighing the relative importance of others’ dreams.

Moreover, I believe writing is a vocation for writers, the same way parenting is a vocation for parents. For most of us, death pretty much puts an end to any ability we have of fulfilling our vocations, so it makes sense to fulfill them first, in order from most important to least.

Most pet-owners I know have verbalized at one point or another a fear of what will happen to their pets if they die, and they use that fear to make plans so their pets will be fed, cared-for and re-homed in the event of their demise. Again, since tomorrow is not a promise, this makes sense.

Lately, though, my “I hope I don’t die before” thoughts have become quite specific, and in a way I find ridiculous. It’s, “I hope I don’t die before I finish putting the groceries in the car.” Or this morning, watching the wind whip through the trees in front of my house, a brief and indistinct hope that a snow-overloaded tree wouldn’t fall on me while I had the two year old on my hip.

(I still need to post pictures of my decapitated tree. Someone remind me in the comments.)

And in both cases, it’s very practical: when I bring the groceries to the car, I buckle the child into the car and then unload the groceries. (If you’re wondering why I do it that way, this morning it was negative ten degrees. During the spring, summer and fall, I reverse the order.) If a car were to careen through the parking lot and strike me down, would the first responders think to look inside the car and unbuckle my son? Or would he stay there?

Same thing with the tree in the front yard: if I got crushed, who would take care of the kid until someone realized?

Morbid fleeting thoughts. If they stuck around for longer than five seconds, I’d have to see a professional. But it’s intriguing how parenthood made my worries a whole lot more practical.


  1. Normandie

    Yes, I’d like to publish fiction before I die. But that’s not in the forefront. I remember a man who asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was, at that time, 50 years old.

    His question made me think. I looked back over the last decades and wondered if I needed to reconsider my life’s work and its value in the larger scheme of things.

    I’d raised two incredible children. Check.
    I’d been taking care of my elderly aunt (nine years total when she died) and had introduced her to my Lord. Biggee, in my book.
    I’d worked in various ministry capacities, sometimes effectively, sometimes not. I could do more and better here.
    I loved the Lord with all my heart, and though I’d often been guilty of failing in that love, of sinning and facing the consequences of my sins, I was forgiven and beloved of God in my sincere repentance. My walk could always improve. I’d like to stand before Him and hear the words, “Good and faithful servant.”
    I’d completed a number of manuscripts, that, though unpublished, still gave me pleasure in the writing.
    I’d taught, I’d edited, I’d sculpted and given others pleasure in the results.
    At 50, I’d yet to meet the love of my life. I now have, and the number of things we’ve done together has added checks to my bucket list.
    But all of this seemed paltry to the man who questioned me. In the world’s eyes, I was a failure.
    I’m just grateful that, if my only contribution to life had been those children and my auntie’s care, it wouldn’t seem paltry to me.
    So, what next do I want to do before I die?
    Meet and help nurture grandchildren. Watch the blossoming of my children and step-children.
    Continue to take care of and minister to my mother.
    Continue to enjoy my husband.
    Write. Help others achieve their writing goals.
    Publish? Yes, please.

  2. Normandie

    Hey, did I scare everyone off? Usually, you’ve comments aplenty, Jane!

    1. Jane

      The snow has given all of us freeze-brain on the East coast. I’m not sure what’s going on in the midwest and Australia. 😉

  3. Cricket

    I buckled my kids in first so I knew where the were. The cart swings while I wrangle groceries into the trunk, so leaving them in it isn’t a good plan. I never thought about what would happen in the winter when they were sealed in the passenger cabin. Retroactive Eeeks!

    Priorities change. Before kids, your book got top spot. Now it’s demoted. Makes sense to me. My kids have the top spot on my list, with husband and other relatives just underneath. Most of the rest is valued based on its value to them. Even housekeeping, exercise and being a happy, well-rounded person are judged on that scale. It’s circular — doing non-kid-related things helps me be a better parent.

    I suppose going through the boxes from my grandparents before I die would be a good thing.

    Most of my goals are of the “keep moving” type. I know they’ll never be finished. Some are too big (sing and play piano really well), some can’t be finished (cleaning), some slide so much I know they’re not on the short list (publish novel), and still others won’t do me much good if I reach just before I die (learn shorthand).

    Sometimes I give my voice teacher a song for my “someday” list, with the comment “I’ve got 40 years.” We don’t need to drop the current song for it, or work on one that is too hard, or has nothing to teach me (in a few years I might be ready for other things it can teach me), but she now knows the type of music I like.

    If it turns out I don’t have 40 years, at least I’m on the road.

    1. Jane

      The recommendations change ALL the time. For a while you were supposed to take your kids right out of the cart and buckle them into the car because that was safer, in case the cart rolled. Makes sense.

      Then the recommendation was to keep your kid in the cart while you unloaded the cart because if someone came along to carjack your car, you could hand over the keys and say, “Oh, and by the way, there’s only a quarter tank of gas, so you’ll want to fill up in the next hundred miles.”

      I can’t follow it any longer. If it’s snowing or raining, or if it’s too cold to think, the kids go into the car. I might leave the door open with the kid buckled inside while I”m unloading. I try to park in the space adjacent to the cart corral, if there is one, so I don’t need to worry about walking across the lot to return the cart. But really… There are too many variables.

      Going through the sentimental stuff and writing down what it is would be a good thing to do. You’re just so much more organized than I am. I did that with a few of my grandmother’s things, but what I SHOULD have done was written down on the back of every single picture who was in it, when she and I were going over the pictures and I thought, “Oh, I’ll know who these people are later.” Yeah, right. :-b Sixty years of history, lost in one bad decision.

  4. cricketB

    I’m not more organized by any stretch, but my mother was and I deal with the “I’m not as good as my mother” guilt by making a list and ignoring it.

    I’ve accepted that some things will get new stories attached as I hand them down. Mom and I disagree on several items, so I use the story that works for me. What matters is there’s a story attached and we enjoy using it.

    The Limoges china came back with the great-great-uncle who was in the war (near Limoges France) and the Irish crystal came back wrapped in Grandpa’s underwear when he was in Norway (must have stopped in Ireland) consulting after the war. Maybe Uncle Jack was stationed in Ireland and Grandpa had a stop-over in Limoges. It doesn’t matter to the kids, as long as I’m consistent.

    I agree, though, photos should have names attached. I knew Grandma, I’d like to know which of the bored kids in the class picture is her. In dementia, it’s nice for random caregivers to know who is in the photo on the dresser so they can have a conversation. It’s on the above list.

  5. cricketB

    If I’m more organized, why do I have difficulty keeping half the house under control with two kids in grade-school, while you handle four kids each in a different school (or not), a home, a novel, a blog, and several short stories?

    1. philangelus

      You have much higher standards than I do. I use the Motivated Moms planner and call it good. 🙂 I think you actually want your house clean. I settle for “not a health hazard.” LOL!

      And you’ll note that the blog doesn’t get updated on a regular basis right now, either.

  6. cricketB

    I talk more about cleaning than I do it. My daily half-hour is usually done by noon. I announce “Now for” several times before it’s done. If I could stick with MMoms I’d be happy. It’s a thorough list, but I keep wanting to change the order.

  7. dana

    I’ve lived my 60 years, daily hoping I could finish doing this, doing that, before I died. The problem being, I always anticipated death coming within the next five minutes, so even drinking a glass of water carried its own tension.

    That’s why we end up writing…at least while we have control over our characters, we’re not thinking about the fact we have no control over ourselves and what happens in the next five minutes.