“She never went to Europe.”
“She didn’t take a long trip on a train or go canyoneering.”
“She never finished learning Italian.”
Then these people—the critics of my life—turn brutal.
“She never saw her kids grow up.”
“Or got to watch them graduate from college.”
“She didn’t see them get married.”
“And…she never…grew old with Mike.”
I want to tell these people to shut up. Be quiet! But I’m stuck. I know I’m in an open casket, with satin and flowers all around. They’ve tried to make death beautiful so it’s less scary. But that “death-box” isn’t even what’s holding me back from telling them off. The fact that I’m dead, still trapped inside my decaying, inadequate body, THAT is what holds me back.
“Sweetheart…? Sweetheart!” My husband shakes me, and I throw my arms around him.
“I’m having that dream again—where I’m stuck in my body. And everyone is making me remember the things I never did. I didn’t see the kids grow up, Mike.” I sob so hard. “I didn’t get to see it!”
He holds me for the longest time. Then he whispers, “I found something awesome in the hotel room, and I want to show it to you.”
I open my eyes, wipe away my tears, and look around. We’re in a fancy bed and breakfast that Dee paid for. Mike and I should be enjoying how beautiful it is. I don’t have time for nightmares and dumb reminders that I have cancer. This is supposed to be…fun.
Mike points to a vase. “Look inside.”
“I can’t! Don’t you remember? I said it looks like an urn. No more reminders of death.”
He shakes his head. “Come on, Elisa.”
So, I open the lid and am shocked to find a note inside. “What kind of person would leave a note like this in a hotel vase? Do you think there are more?”
Mike excitedly rifles through various items in the room.
“I don’t think you should be—“ I begin to say, but then he finds more notes and leaves them in a pile on the floor.
I gingerly lower my body to the ground, and Mike pulls a pillow from the bed. He cradles me right there on the floor, and we read note after note, discovering stories from people who had been married for decades to couples who’d spent their wedding night in that very room. We read three letters written to a man named “Scott” from three different women.
“Do you think ‘Scott’ is bringing different women here?” Mike asks me. “Are they all talking about the same guy?”
“Maybe so…” I completely forget about my dream then and smile as we read the letters addressed to Scott again. “We have to write a letter and leave it in the room!”
“I’ll leave that up to you,” Mike says.
“I can’t wait to start it with ‘Dear Scott.’”
Mike laughs, and afterward we put all of the notes back where he’d found them.
It’s not until the afternoon, when Mike busily packs, that I write a note. But it’s not about what I didn’t accomplish in life; it’s about the things I did. I write about my amazing children and family—who fill my life with such joy. I write about being an author and playing the violin; I describe what it’s like finally knowing what makes me tick. And then…I write about Mike. “As a single mom of four kids, I prayed God would send me a miracle. Then, He sent Mike, the kindest person I’ve ever met. We spent the night in this hotel because I needed a momentary escape from stage four cancer. Some days are good and some days are terribly bad. The point is that if you’re reading this, I hope you’ll appreciate every moment. At the end of your life, don’t regret what you didn’t do. Instead appreciate the memories you’ve made and the people you’re lucky enough to have known. That’s it really: It’s all about doing the best you can and being grateful.”
After signing my first name, I go to hide the note in a large box on the mantle, and I notice Mike has left one there too.
I open it, read the words, and smile. He’s written a note that closely mirrors my own. I love the idea that someday someone else will be reading our words of love—surprised to find notes at a special bed and breakfast in Lava Hot Springs.
Below are pictures of the mantle and some of the notes we found in the hotel. 💕 What a neat experience!