Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Like There’s No Tomorrow

If you knew it were your last moment, what would you desire to be doing?

Bella learned the importance of living in the moment when she was in college and a professor of hers asked his students to participate in an exercise… 

“He asked that we choose something, anything, to do, but that we be in the present while doing so; using all of our senses to really live the experience…and live it like we were doing it for the last time.   

While my chosen activity seems a bit silly now (drinking my morning cup of coffee) I have to tell you that I never drank another cup of coffee the same way again.


Now every time I do so, I savor it, inhale its aroma, and really take my time.  In not taking things, events, or people for granted, we learn to appreciate the beauty and joy they bring to our lives.   Wouldn't you agree?”

Last Time Scenarios

Stuart would be watching the World Series, eating buttered popcorn in his favorite red bowl.   If given a choice, he’d hold on until after the 9th inning…  

We’d find Sharon relaxing on her back screened-in porch, rays of afternoon sunlight warm on her skin... absorbed in a page turner until “the end.”

On Saturday I catch a sneak preview of what the last time might look like...

As North Carolina is slammed by ruthless tornadoes ripping through one county after another… decimating homes, leveling buildings, uprooting trees... tearing off roofs…


Debris flying… insulation scattering... gates and fences strewn about like tinker toys…power lines dangling across streets… cars and semis flipped over…    

 I hunker down in the living room with my daughter, Abi, and watch all the devastation on a local TV station.  Twenty-five tornadoes claiming homes and lives.

 We learn from the map they show that we’re next in line… 

Trees grow wild outside and roaring winds threaten to lift us into eternity.   I envision our home spinning through sky (with us inside) as seen on The Wizard of Oz.  

Lights begin to flicker… Soon we’ll be in the dark – both in the literal and figurative sense.   Abi takes out her cell phone and starts texting.   Come to find out she’s tweeting this message:

“We’re in the middle of a tornado… I’m freakin’ petrified… and my mom is eating chocolate chip cookies!”

 That’s right… devouring leisurely chewing those sweets like there’s no tomorrow.   


I cannot predict the future… I cannot change the past…

I have just the present moment… I must treat it as my last.

If you knew there was no tomorrow, what would you choose to be doing today?

57 comments:

  1. I'd want to be holding, and being held, the woman I really love, and just no talking.

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  2. No hesitation here Stuart!
    I agree. Talk all you want until that time, then be silent and in perfect peace:)

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  3. That's a question to really ponder. I would want to be doing something with my whole family - everyone happy and laughing.

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  4. Spending it with my wife, just holding her.. there was a few time when I thought it might be and thats what we did.
    Following you


    http://jpweddingphotograpy.blogspot.com/2011/04/tutorial-how-i-photograph-flying-birds.html

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  5. @ Lisa – I’d gather them all near and say “I love you forever."

    @ Jim - So you’ve already caught a glimpse of “the last time...”
    I’ve been following your amazing photography blog for awhile now. Saw blue herons last time I stopped by.

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  6. Awh, love this thought provoking post! I'm with you on the savoring the coffee. . .I'm normally in such a hurry or get distracted that I have to heat it up in the microwave because I like it scalding hot! I'm going to savor it tomorrow morning! I'm trying to live "carpe diem" daily. That way, someday, I hope to have less regrets. xo

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  7. I believe I would have my family with me, holding them close and letting them hear the words "I love you". I would remember our life together for the last time and pray that we would all be together in another place soon. THEN, if there was time, I would enjoy a cup of coffee with my husband, no verbal words would pass, just quiet, as we watched our children play.

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  8. If I knew there was no tomorrow, I'd express my love, friendship, regrets,and apologies to my family and friends. Those actions are more important to me than any selfish act for myself. Nice post!!

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  9. I know people will not take me seriously, but if there was no tomorrow I would not do anything differently. Too much time wasted in planning is what would occur. Less than 24 hours left? No better time to stop and smell the roses.

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  10. Debra,
    If I had no child I would be making love and doing all the thing that I haven't done to him and hopefully die in the moment of total ecstasy.

    Since I have children I would do as Mary would hold them tight tell them I love them more then anything in this world and pray that we would be together again.

    Since I hate the thought of the end of the world and never seeing my children again I chose not to think about it.

    xoxo
    Jessica

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  11. This is a great post. First I just want to say I'm so glad that you guys went through the tornados in your area unhindered. I probably would have been eating some cookies too if they were around at the time! :)

    I absolutely find the power of the present moment a transforming experience. To experience each moment for what it is, using the five senses, really makes life more vibrant and brings out all the little details that we so oftentimes miss. If I knew there were no tomorrow I would choose to be with my family...my husband and children.

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  12. I'd be spending it w/my BEST friend, telling her how much she means to me.

    Be Happy! Be Well! Be Positive!
    Blessings to you.
    --
    Chris
    http://www.cjpwisdomandlife.com

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  13. I would be with my children, touching, talking, eating something decadent, laughing a lot and crying. I'm happy you and your family made it through the storms!

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  14. Beautiful thought! My biggest mistake. Forgetting to live today and looking for tomorrow. I have to stop!

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  15. @ Pamela – Ah yes… Carpe Diem is my word too. I have to nuke my coffee if it gets slightly below the boiling point. My brother used to call me asbestos mouth for this reason.

    @ Mary – With you on gathering the family and children, saying the I-love-yous, then enjoying that good- to- the- last-drop cup of coffee.

    @ David – On apologies and regrets… I’d be busy writing letters or calling or whatever I needed to do to make rectify my sins of omission or commission.

    @ Skype –To live in such a manner that you’d be doing exactly what you are already doing is commendable. I just did a recent post, “Fields of Gold,” on stopping to smell the flowers.

    @ Jessica at Finding One’s Way – how romantic… *deep sigh* Sounds like most of us with children would hope to say our proper goodbyes for now… and pray for eternity together.

    @ Jessica at Ascending the Hills – Not everyone did come through the tornadoes unhindered. There were a number of fatalities here in NC. Many homes destroyed, lives shattered… and just one block over from me there was severe damage: downed power lines and huge trees toppled onto houses. Scary stuff, from which I learned a valuable lesson: enjoy the chocolate chip cookies while you can… and be sure to keep plenty of treats (comfort food) on hand in case of emergency :)

    @ Christopher – Your best friend a blessed gal. Speaking of friends, I read your post yesterday on what kind of friends ‘do you have’? - And couldn’t agree more. Excellent message!

    @ Sweepy Jean – A woman after my own heart... We made it through this storm, but sadly many are homeless right now, and grieving their losses. NC suffered much devastation.

    @ Sailor - Many forget to live today. The fast track is always before our eyes… I read yesterday a simple but profound quote: “Hurry hurts.” I seem to be writing on this subject more and more…

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  16. Debra, how I love this post! I'm honored that you've included my comment! I think it's wonderful to create awareness to the importance of living in the present moment. After all, it's all we have. Like I mentioned to you, we should abstain from taking anything for granted. My mother and daughter have their homes in North Carolina and both tell me they've never been more afraid in their lives than when the tornado went by. My daughter decided enjoying a piece of chocolate was what she wanted to do, while my mother hugged her dog Olivia to her until it was all over. When I them why they had chosen to do what they did, my mother replied, "At that precise moment we were seeking comfort in what we love best. Isn't that what you always say we should do?" I'm glad you you chose to munch on chocolate chip cookies. They would have been a perfect complement to my cup of coffee! :)

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  17. I'd definitely choose to be with cuddling with loved ones, but it offered a cookie... heck ya I'd eat one! :)

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  18. Glad you are OK. One hell of an event. Got friends and family living through earthquakes and regular aftershocks in Christchurch New Zealand, and the stress is telling on them.

    And for them it just goes on and on, it doesn't pass through.

    As for me, yes I'd be chewing leisurely on chocolate chippie biscuits also, although I would kind of like to go out with chocolate marshmellow biscuits...much more decadent.
    They create less crumbs also, so hugging my wife will be a lot less messy.

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  19. Cuddling loved ones for sure but how can I forget my many pairs of SHOESSSSSSS! You know me am just being silly. Love your posts being with close and loved people is what I would do

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  20. tough question :P... but if this day were my last and there'll be no tomorrow, i'd like to go see sam in india...and spend my last day with him... i'm spending my precious moments with my family now and i hope that they'll gift me my love with the only moment left...;)

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  21. if I knew there be no tomorrow i want to be with my friend who i lost for last twenty years . i would sit by , chat and laugh with and share our shoulder to cry if there need to cry... all i want is to hear that she stills love me like one of her own.

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  22. If I knew there was no tomorrow I'd spend the day in meditation and the night at the dinner table with my family - eating and talking and laughing and having one last 'high-low' go 'round...

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  23. I cannot predict the future… I cannot change the past…

    I have just the present moment… I must treat it as my last.
    I will probably spend it with those ho matter most...I had written something on this earlier...http://motifsonthewall.blogspot.com/2011/03/no-time-to-go-fast.html

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  24. Great post. At work we train our actors with a "you have one hour left to live, how are you spending it?" exercise, and there are always responses you'd never heard before or would never consider. It's amazing what priority crystallizes for people under that consideration.

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  25. @ Bella - I learned today that there were actually 65 tornadoes that hit NC on Saturday… and 25 in Wilson County where we live. It was a freaky day to say the least. Your mom and daughter are here? Wow, what a small world! I had no idea when I planned this post that I’d be living such a fearful moment, with the uncertainty of seeing another tomorrow. It was my pleasure sharing your experience here. And yes, your coffee would have been a delightful compliment to the chocolate chip cookies!

    @ Rachel – Are you sure you wouldn’t be sitting in a closet writing poetry… and munching on a cookie between rhymes?

    @ Jim - Love and prayers still going out to the Christchurch victims of the earthquake and those suffering through the aftershocks. Consider stocking up on those chocolate marshmallow biscuits; you never know when you’ll need ‘em. And, as you said, they’d be less crumbly than cookies. I’m sure your wife would appreciate that :)

    @ Savira – LOL… whatever you do, don’t forget the shoes! HUGS!

    @ Melissa – It is a tough question. I hope you get to see Sam in India sooner than later. Meanwhile, enjoy those precious moments with you family now.

    @ 8066…. I feel sadness over your absent friend. Twenty years seems like a long time to miss someone. This person must be still dear to your heart.

    @ Cathy – A time of meditation would calm the soul and center one in preparation for anything… and a “last supper” with family would be the perfect finale!

    @ Alpana – Given the choice, I’d spend my last moment with those that matter most as well… and I hope to find and read you post, “No time to go fast.”

    @ Tattytiara – I’d love to hear those responses from the actors! Is this an improvisation exercise? You must be a director. My daughter has been active with an acting troupe for several years now: Act for Youth.

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  26. Debra, glad you and your family got through the storms safely. There isn't a day that goes by without my family knowing how much I love them, I think if we knew it was our last day we'd spend it as we do now together.

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  27. Oh Debbie I love your posts! I am glad you and your loved ones are safe and unharmed. If it were my last day, I would be with my son, Ron, my mother, my brother and his family and probably have a glass of wine and savor each sip. Alas I dont have that special man, had he been I would want to die in his arms telling him "I love you"

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  28. hi debra, this is a very thought provoking issue.. sure glad you and family are ok. generally for most people, i think the anxiety and fear you went through will always be fresh in their minds for years to come..developing into a phobia of some sort...take care

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  29. I was devouring mini Snickers bars. My son was in the highchair and my husband was feeding him puffies. I was eating through the fear and facebooking to get my news. We were all huddled, connecting our fears and worries through the technology lines of cell phones, internet, TV, phones. I got a text from a good friend. She is a weather watcher, homepage on her computer is NOAA. She texts, "Get somewhere safe. Don't panic." Then another text after the stomr passes, she watching on the live TV news. Me without live TV, only the facebook feed of The Wilson Daily Times fanpage. Her text sings in, "It has passed. Breathe." I thought sh was being dramatic. No joke. Serious sh&%. Mother Nature is a badass!

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  30. @ Debbie – How grateful I am that my household survived the tornadoes unharmed. It’s a life lesson to treasure every second of every day, and to always reassure our family and friends of how deeply they are loved.

    @ Rimly – You never know… that special man may just come along… Until then, cherish those whom you’ve been given to love: your son Ron, mom, brother & family. Keep them close and celebrate each new day that God sends.

    @ Cooking Varieties - I recall my aunt who had a phobia of storms, astraphobia. At the first rumblings of thunder, she packed her bags and showed up at our house until the storms moved on. While the storms were raging, she sat in the dark hallway and screamed with every thunder boom. This came from having witnessed someone she knew being struck and killed by lightening.

    @ Meg – It was the buzz on Facebook and cell phones, so even without TV you couldn’t miss the action. But at least the TV coverage was updated live by the minute. There was one second when I went out on the porch… until I heard the train a’comin…. Until I felt the earth vibrate with huge oaks crashing down one block over… How grateful you must have been for those words, “It has passed. Breathe.” I encourage you to write a piece on this called, “The Last Snicker Bar.”

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  31. Awesome post. Not going to miss my last chest workout. Give me my bench, olympic bar and weights, let me take my body to oblivion, and then my heart can go to heaven. Hold on "Heaven can Wait" i got to text my daughters because they'll be out dancing the last waltzin younger generation fashion

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  32. Larry - Work like you don't need the money...
    Workout into oblivion... or until your heart is in heaven...
    Dance like there's no-one's watching.
    Sing like there's no-one's listening.

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  33. Debra - I'm so glad that you are okay. I didn't realize that you lived in NC and how you might be affected. Sorry for being so insensitive. Having never been in a tornado I can't even begin to imagine how scary that must be....I loved that you chose to do enjoy your 'last moment'. I recall my grandmother, who at 96, was taken to hospital with breathing problems one evening. She died the next morning...But the whole evening before she kept us in splits! When the doctor came around, she inquired after his health and whether he had had his supper! Early the next morning, she was joking with my brother and trying out a new language (Tamil) minutes before she died. I'd like to die like that - surrounded by family, not focusing on myself and laughing all the way 'home'.
    Warm hugs....

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  34. Debra - I'm so glad you are safe! Beautiful, thought-provoking post.

    As I was reading, my choice became very clear to me. I would be on the beautiful island in Northern Ontario, Canada, where my husband and I were married. We would be there together, laying on the white sand, playing in the waves. I dream about this place frequently. It holds my heart.

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  35. I want to be with my family. Just wanted to let you know I will email you my new blog url and name for it. It is even better than nanas sweeties. It will be private, invitation only. I already have it up and going. HAPPY EASTER my friend.

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  36. @ Corinne – I truly appreciate your concern. NC has never been hit with so many concurrent and destructive tornadoes; this was historic. On Saturday, a week ago, whole neighborhoods in our area were wiped out by twisters.

    Your grandmother sounds like my kind of woman. That’s how I’d like to go too Corinne… surrounded by those I love and still able kid around. Your grandmother’s exit from this realm sounds miraculous.


    @ Kristen – Thank you! This island in Ontario where you and your husband were married sounds like a dream… I’ve never been to Canada, but have friends who moved to the States from Montreal. I’ll bet this placed you speak of is a paradise.

    @ Janet - Thank you for the update, and the invitation to your new site. I did receive an email regarding this change, and was sorry to learn of your recent troubles. Hope things are better. Happy Easter!

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  37. Oh, being present in the moment - we can say it, write about it, occasionally practice it - but at least me - don't do it enough. My last moment I'd want my sibs around me - If I had a bride it would be her our children - oh and Laska the love kitty too - playing cards - being together and laughing - or maybe Catherine Zeta Jones ((he says in brief fit of paganthink). Hearted this. Heart all your stuff. Saturday – Tomorrow I wish a Happy Easter to you. God bless and keep you and all of yours Debra.

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  38. Debra,
    As always your post has touched my soul. I absolutely love your posts and look forward to each new one and this again did not disappoint. Each day you have a new post I am almost tempted to use my blog to redirect to yours :)
    I love the reflection time I have after each post of yours I read.
    Aaron
    http://www.aaronoutward.com

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  39. I think about this every day of my life and really wish I would act differently in front of my children. Not worry about the dishes gathering in the sink so much and just play with them. Enjoy them. Breathe them in.
    Great post.

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  40. I would finally quit smoking - after all its just one day - LOL. I love your posts Debra - they make me relax like you did with the cup of coffee.

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  41. @ Craig – does Laska the love kitty play cards? Love that cat! On living in the present… we hear so much about it, don’t we? And yet, truth be known, it takes a conscious effort to practice the art of living in the eternal now.
    We must be still and still moving
    Into another intensity
    For a further union, a deeper communion
    Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
    The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
    Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.
    ~ T.S. Eliot
    Happy Easter!

    @ Aaron – This is my wish for you: Comfort on difficult days, smiles when sadness intrudes, rainbows to follow clouds, laughter to kiss your lips, sunsets to warm your heart, hugs when spirits sag, beauty for your eyes to see, friendships to brighten your being, faith so that you can believe, confidence for when you doubt, courage to know yourself, patience to accept the truth, Love to complete your life. Happy Easter!

    @ Romina - Children have neither past nor future; they enjoy the present, which very few of us do. Follow their lead. Children are great imitators. So give them something great to imitate. Be here now. The dishes aren’t going anywhere, but the children will, all too soon. As you said, “Play with them. Breathe them in…” while they are still with you.

    @ Kriti – This reminds me of a story my friend Janemaree told me. One night she dreamed of the Lord’s return. When she saw him moving toward her with outstretched arms, she said, “Wait just one minute… I need to run inside and grab my cigarettes first :)”

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  42. I'd definitely spend it with my loved ones...and a nice big slice of cheesecake. :) BTW...made you New blog of the day.

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  43. If I knew it was my last day, I would love every moment and live it to the fullest. Of course, my Muse, my YOU would get the final and the longest kiss. Love your posts, Debra.

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  44. @ Copyboy – And you’d need a good cup of coffee to go with that big slice of cheesecake. If it were the last day for me, I’d probably go ahead and eat the whole cheesecake :) What is new blog of the day all about? You have my curiosity up now! I did swing by and follow you, and read the interview.

    @ Sulekkha – Even if you didn’t know it were your last day, my guess is that you’d still live it to the fullest… most likely in the flow of writing, taking dictation from your muse :) May your creative flow continue always!

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  45. I really wish I'd be doing something amazing, but I strongly suspect I would be petting my cat and watching Netflix streaming. I kinda feel like I'll go out the same as I am. Pity.

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  46. Sitting in the family room with my hubby, our feet up on the coffee table, eating cereal, drinking great coffee and chatting about - well just whatever comes to mind. It's what we do every morning. It's our special time of day and I wouldn't miss it for anything! Oh, and our 3 dogs are sitting staring at us with baleful eyes hoping for leftovers :D

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  47. @ Humor Smith - It’s not a pity to be the way you are. What could be more amazing than an “ordinary” life? Take nothing for granted, especially not the small things, for someday they may be the big things.

    @ Mari – This is the life… to me, casual moments are the greatest. Being content with the simple things… feeding my dog the second half of a cube of cheese and watching his anticipation as I take another bite, then pitch the other half his way.

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  48. This really got a lot of response! Very thought provoking. Isaac Asimov said "If my doctor told me I had only 6 minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd just type a little faster." I love that; one of my favorite "words to live by." However, when the tornadoes come, I usually spend the whole time going back and forth from the front door to the back door, front door to back door, to peer out and assess the severity of the situation.

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  49. Ramey, I’m guessing that we writers would, like Isaac Asimov, type faster too... Good words to live by. On the tornadoes… we rode around a few days later and saw entire neighborhoods destroyed. During the tornado I stayed glued to the continual coverage on a local station, and when I saw that we weren’t exempt I peeked every so often out the window and watched the wild trees and debris flying every which way. Scary business.

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  50. Having lived through the same storm cell activity in Knoxville, TN last night, I also lived the answer to this question. I spoke to the people that I love. I heard their voices over the phone, although obvious preference would have been to see their faces and embrace each of them one last time. Oddly, I didn't think of food, or even of dressing properly in case my home was hit by tornado activity. I think my brain froze a bit. I concentrated on staying in touch with those I love and it gave me the most important thing to focus on. Love.

    Namaste',

    Dawn

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  51. Dawn, living through the question is entirely different than imagining or thinking what is would be like. Mostly we are on auto pilot, as you so aptly stated in a recent post, but when storms strike – be they figurative or literal - then, and only then, do we tend to shift gears.
    Nothing brings love to consciousness like the possibility of no tomorrow.

    On the literal storms…we have been in great peril lately. After last week’s devastation here I’ve been paying closer attention to the threats others are facing now – and there are many suffering from these.

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  52. Great post.It's really nice of you sharing such wonderful posts on here with fellow bloggers.Hope you fine.Meanwhile plz do visit my page read on freeing your mind and 5 steps to freeing your mind and comment to assist improve and share my works.Lovely day.
    EBENEZER.

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  53. Thank you Edendy, and I did stop by your place and read your post on freeing the mind.
    Lovely day to you too ~

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  54. Just dropped by to read your words - I poked around your archives a bit since I already read this - AND hearted it. But I've had enough of tornadoes both here in St. Louis and in the South - so didn't want to read tornado-ish stuff. Heart your archives anyway. God Bless and keep you and all of yours Debra. ♥✞ღ

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  55. Thanks Craig... you are always welcome here at my place! The tornadoes in Alabama this week and other states have blown me away. *pun* Now praying for those homeless and grieving victims.

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  56. uhm...i'll eat everything...twice! lol! seriously, i would want to be with my family, my loved ones... my dog. i'd want us to be happy and thanking God for the gift of life and the privilege of knowing that it's my last moment...:)

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  57. Amen Shyll! Gather all the family in the ark together!

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