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I’m always fascinated by pieces about somebody’s last day of life before an unexpected death. Alexander Hamilton, for example, had lunch plans on the day that he was shot to death in an early morning duel in New Jersey. A beautiful piece in this month’s Atlantic profiles the last days of a young man who was incidentally killed at the World Trade Center where he had a morning meeting that day only. He had nothing else written into his planner for that day and his loved ones have pondered that. Could he have known?

In a word, ‘no’. Unless we are already in more-than-usual harm’s way or struggling with illness or injury, we don’t usually get to know. Still, we strive to find meaning in those last days. We reproach ourselves – could we have done something to prevent this? To make the loved one’s life better? Could we have called more often, spoken more kindly, been more generous? Should they have called in sick that one time, or gotten into the car five minutes later, three minutes, two minutes?

Sure, but they would have died anyway because everyone dies anyway. They might not have passed on that Tuesday, but another day they would have. We all will. Some people find that depressing. Others find it liberating – no point in counting calories if one is going to be eating ambrosia by evening. Why fuss over cleaning the kitchen floor if you are going to be under it or something like it in the very near future?

Well, because we are not here alone. Even when we feel and seem to be completely abandoned, someone somewhere is fighting for us and saving us. They are keeping us in their thoughts, or they are bringing food to market that we will eat, or they are sweating exams in an AP Bio class and will someday be that surgeon who finds that thing and gives us days and months more with everything we love.

Our job, I think, and it might be our only one, who knows, is to fight for and also save them. To care about them and hold them in our hearts, no matter what, no matter who they are. If there is a Paradise, I don’t want to be eating my Mousse au Chocolat with only Ron and Nancy Reagan and the senior Bushes for company. I want to be eating it with everyone and everything, with conservatives and liberals and kind people and mean people, with those who are stupid and those who are wise, with everybody’s dogs and cats and all my favorite people with their various songs and dances, with sunsets and beaches. I can’t think only about saving myself. What kind of a party would that be?

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