A question was posed to me: “if I only had a week to live”. Here are my thoughts:
First, I guess when most people think about this kind of dilemma, the first thing that they might think of is what has been called a “bucket list” or those things that they have always wanted to do but just never found the time so they place them in a bucket in the hopes to get to them later. I guess too, if one had a week to live they could begin to pick out those things that would be manageable over a week and hopefully would be high on their list of priorities. I suspect what most people put on such lists are things like seeing the Grand Canyon, visiting Paris or going scuba diving. I have no such list, and even if I did, I believe that is not the way I would spend the last days of my life. It seems to me that pleasurable things are things you do when you have time. Such pleasurable things, however, are probably not as important as several other matters that people really should do before they leave the world. These things likely trump anything on such a bucket list.
With that said, the first thing I would take care of, would be to not leave those I care for a mess. This means I would make some decisions about who would get various items of my property, how people might continue my work, or at least take care of employees and those important to me. In short, I would decide all matters that would cause people problems if not attended to before I died; this is all very important.
Once that has been taken care of, I would move on to secondary issues, such as taking some time to give thanks to all those who have helped me throughout my life. Those who have helped my family, and all those who are dear to me. Moreover, apologies would have to be made to all whom I have hurt or in some way disappointed, as well as forgive those whom I have yet to forgive for any actions they may have brought about that hurt me or those I had cared for. I would not do this by an email, or any kind of superficial communication. Instead, I would try to write hand written letters to all those in question. For whatever one accomplishes in life, it is never done alone and with regard to forgiveness, there is no benefit in harboring negative feelings towards anyone. If doing this requires a big party, maybe that can be arranged, but that would be unlikely. The important thing is that it is done in the most meaningful way.
Next, I believe I would make an effort to speak with my children about the mistakes I made in life, and how they should try to avoid the same mistakes. I would also tell them what I have learned of any importance, and what I hoped they would remember about me. In doing so, I might make a recording of my messages to them so they could revisit them from time to time. It would only be then, and if time allowed, that I would do anything that smacks of self-indulgence. The truth is, however, that much of what I have mentioned would bring much joy. Telling people how important they are to me would bring me great satisfaction, particularly if I knew that I would never get a chance to say anything of significance to them again. Putting that aside, I suspect some time on a beach building a sand castle with my grandchildren, having some wine with my loved ones, or catching a beautiful sunset might be the best way to spend your last day on earth. Frankly, this pretty much sounds like a perfect way to go, as long as you know that no one will be burdened by your absence and nothing will go unsaid to people for whom you have cared for so long. Just give me this and nothing more.