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  • Writer's pictureStuart Sheldon

Your Final 8 Minutes

Updated: Oct 29, 2023

The Enlightened One
The Enlightened One

“But, you’re gonna die soon, Daddy,” said my 4-yo, through the beginning of tears. “I don’t want you to die,” he continued. I rubbed his soft tummy, as we lay in the shadow of his bottom bunk a few weeks back. “Why do you say that?” I asked, my curiosity deepening. “Because you’re big.” Big means old in Bodhi-speak. “I’m going to live a long time, so don’t you worry,” I said, feeling so much love for this sentient creature, as he wrapped his fingers around my wrist. “I don’t want to die, Daddy,” he said. “You have a very long beautiful life ahead of you, Bodhi. Don’t you worry, baby boy.” I kissed his cheeky face and stroked his silken skin as he fell asleep.

Buddah sat beneath a Bodhi tree when he became one with all. In fact, Bodhi means enlightened one in Sanskrit. Is my youngest son enlightened? He’s a pitiful listener, and when unhappy, has the most unenlightened screech I’ve ever heard. But, Bodhi’s quotient of random I love yous is 10x the rest of ours. He regularly places Jodi and my hands together and insists, aggressively at times, that we be a physical couple in his presence. He’s always petting us, literally stroking our arms and hands, not in a needy way, but in a way that affirms our fundamental bond to him. As if he is an extension of us and this touch makes him whole. He is the group hug instigator and the leader of the snuggle parties we four have in our bed many mornings. “Rub” he demands often, as he places his arm or foot or back before me. “Scratch,” is another of his dictates.

On a daily basis, this little boy shows me, by example, the magic and critical role of physical touch in a deep love connection. He teaches me how to give affection overtly and voraciously. In other words, Bodhi is proving more and more true to his namesake everyday. And so, to hear him pronounce with such authority that I am to die soon gave me pause. I lay beside him until he fell asleep, then, out of nowhere, from behind the veil, he chuckled. About what, I cannot say. But then, a few moments later, his face changed and he said, “He’s already dead.” What is my little Buddah relaying?

This weekend, I was part of a large guided Death Meditation in the mountains above Ogden UT at the magnificent Summit Series. I had absolutely no idea what a death meditation was. We all lay in a tranquil room on our backs, as our guide, aptly named Angel, had us visualize the final 8 hours of our life. She walked us through the physiological timeline of our body systems shutting down and had us consider the ideas one faces in the final moments. One question really got me thinking - “Whose voice do you wish to hear as you die?”

Then, Angel dropped, “Who do you wish to have touching your skin as you die?” I’d never pondered either of these, and I tried to exit my mind and let my heart respond. The answer came clearly to me – Bodhi. My youngest child is who I want to guide me out. Of course, I adore my first son with every cell in my being (I wrote a whole book about him, fercrissakes). And I love my wife … and siblings. But, every day, Bodhi earns that special place with his insistent physical outreach. More and more, I believe Bodhi is some kind of spirit guide; I’m not even sure what that means.

Goodbye Old Friend, 20"X23" Acrylic, paper, antique book pages and cardboard on panel with original poetry, 2005, Stuart Sheldon
Goodbye Old Friend, 20″X23″ Acrylic, paper, antique book pages and cardboard on panel with original poetry, 2005

Angel asked another potent question – “What mattered?”

What will you consider important in your journey at 4-minutes-and-counting? Again, I tried not to think but to intuit the answer from below my neckline. My conclusion could not be more trite nor cliche … straight out of a Top-40 song. But I believe it to be the bare truth of human existence. All that matters at 4-minutes is that you loved and were loved. Period. That is our infinite legacy, beyond the book you wrote and the disease you cured and the company you sold.


Hopefully, we all have considerably more than 4-minutes remaining on our hourglasses. Why wait? Let’s love bigger. More recklessly. More fully. Let’s allow ourselves to be loved more deeply. With less fear and reserve. Let’s scratch and rub more. Snuggle more. Touch me when you see me; hug me. I’m serious.

I’m 50 and hope to live a long life … but who knows? I told my boys recently that, were I to be gone, I would want them to know simply that I loved them more than anyone can love anything. And that I wanted them to be gentlemen. I doubt such things can really be heard by 4 and 6 yr-olds. But I said it, just in case. What I did not say but thought was "Thank you so much for allowing me to feel within myself the supernova of emotion burning its brightest. I am truly happy because of you, and were I to die tomorrow, my life was complete with you in it."

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