Donna and Ralph

Donna and Ralph personal photo

I have buried people, and been to funerals.
I’ve spoken about the recently deceased.

This was different.

One of the dearest people in the whole world is dying.
She’s going to die very soon.
Perhaps a few more days.
Probably not more than a week or two.

The family informed us.  We piled in the car, and drove to see her.

I could tell you that she is one of God’s angels, that she has a heart of gold, that she has served children who have needed a loving home.

I could tell you that for some forty years, her living room has been like a community center where people could step in, grab a warm meal, be hugged and loved, and get some wisdom dropped on them.
No questions, no judgment.

And she is dying.
She is Donna, the grandmother to my kids.
Grandmother to the kid that looks like her, and grandmother to the kids who’re not biologically related to her but have been enshrined in her precious heart. She loves them all.

There may come a time when I question the Keeper of the stars as to why He keeps taking the beautiful ones.
That day is not today.

The day may come when I reflect on a love stronger than death.
That day is not today.

Today was about something much more simple.
What do you say to a loved one when you know it is the last time ever you will see them alive?

Donna and family

Donna and family personal photo

In the two days we spent with her, life was oddly simple.
All learning, all theology, all word play and sophistication were stripped of pretense.
All of life was reduced to the essential core.

We lived in the awareness that time was finite.
We chose our words economically.

It was these words we kept repeating through our tears.

We love you.
We are so grateful to have had you in our life.
We will take care of each other.
We will see you on the other side.

Goodbye was the hardest, getting to hug this person for one last time.
Her tears and mine mingled.

She waived, serenely, as we drove away sobbing.

On the way home, this is all I can think of.
We are all dying.
Death is not an event.
It is a process.

We are all going to walk through that door sometime.

Confronted with immense grief, she brought out something beautiful in all of us.
Love, gratitude, compassion, and faith of a reunion.

What if we lived like this, every day?
What if through our daily interactions with others, we lived in this recognition?
What if we could strip our interactions to this core (literally, heart), and live in love, gratitude, compassion?

What if we treated one other, each day, each person, as if it was the last time we would meet?
What would we say?
How would we treat each other?
Do it now. 

They will die.
We will die.
Say it now. 
Do it now. 

This is the real stuff of sainthood.
I don’t need miracles and magic tricks.
Give me awareness of knowing how to treat people this way, every day.

Live like you’re dying.
and others around you are dying.
Because they are.
And we are.

Maybe in doing so, we would find
the real meaning of life.

We love you Donna,
We are grateful for you,
We are going to take care of each other,
And we will
see you on the other side.


  1. Dr. Safi, these are such beautiful words. I imagine a world where we all do just that, live each day as if it is our last and the last one for those we come in contact with. Perhaps that is just the pipe dream on one who loves God or perhaps it is a reality that we can attain. Either way, we grieve with you at your loss, the worlds loss because we all have a grandma Donna.

  2. Omid Your words are such a beautiful tribute to “Our” Donna!
    She has been my best friend for over 25 years and I will miss her dearly.
    We will all miss her dearly, but I take comfort in knowing we WILL be together again.

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