7 mins read

What If This Birthday Was Your Last?

By Man On The Fence

I feel that out of all the blog posts I’ve shared with you, this one should leave the biggest impact. I had the good fortune of meeting an incredible woman many years ago… twenty three to be exact. I was young, single, and I was shopping for towels and linens for my new apartment. When I walked into the linen store, it was awe at first glance. At the first sight of this woman, I felt something. I can’t explain exactly what it was. She was a foreigner, she was young and beautiful, I would later find out she was a working mom, and her spirit somehow touched me that first day.


For over twenty three years I visited her store, buying all sorts of things for my apartment, and then later throughout my marriage, for my house.  Every so often, we would get caught up in conversation. I learned of her awful divorce and her choice to pick up and leave Morocco for North America. I had a great sense of admiration and respect for this woman. She took the time to explain to me how she had six brothers and sisters, had come from a wealthy family, but because of infighting back at home, decided it was best to leave and start a new life, and new business in Canada. Over the years I watched her suffer through the chaos that ensued with her bi-polar son, as a single mom, with the strange fact that she barely even mentioned her other son. I also looked at her with the utmost respect, and complete disbelief surrounding her commitment to her family, to her children, to the running of a business etc…

While I never knew her well, I felt an incredible connection with her throughout the duration of my marriage and beyond. We didn’t have to say much, we didn’t see one another often, but each and every time was special. I always left thinking what an incredible woman this was.

On a Friday in December of 209, I received a most troubling telephone call. There she was on the phone, leaving a message that requested me to call her back as soon as possible. Needless to say, I was happy to oblige as she had always left such an incredible impression on me. Upon hearing her voice, I sensed something was wrong. I thought to myself, this is going to be a conversation completely different than anything I had anticipated. I was ready for some big news.

At first she explained how it was her birthday on New Years Eve and how she was throwing a Moroccan themed party in her store for her friends with whom she had connected with over the years. She included me in that small group of people. I was flattered. We reminisced about the stages of our evolving friendship and she mentioned just how much it meant to her to have met me so many years ago. The conversation was fluid, effortless, but I sensed something troubling was coming.

I explained to her that I would surely make myself available on New Year’s Eve, and moreover wouldn’t want to miss this event for anything, as I felt privileged and honored to be considered one of the chosen few. Upon hearing my enthusiastic response, she gave her sweet laugh at how quickly I had jumped at the chance. I went as far as to tell her that I was coming back from out of town with my kids on Dec. 31st, and would be landing after midnight, but if I got through customs in time, if the weather was good, if our bags came out, if my ex-wife picked us up, I would be there!

All of a sudden, the bomb dropped. She continued talking. This birthday was to be her last. While she never told me exactly what was wrong with her, and I didn’t ask, she told me she didn’t have much longer to live. After I hung up the phone, I sat in my house crying for over an hour. This was the very first friend I knew with a terminal illness in so very many years. I couldn’t stop thinking about her struggles that brought her all the way to Canada. I couldn’t believe that we had met so many years ago. And that, although we weren’t close, I was set to lose her. My heart was suddenly heavy with emotion; I had no idea how I would be able to face her New Year’s Eve without crying in disbelief. I couldn’t stop thinking of her beautiful aura, her smile, and that during the final days of her life, she had chosen me to include in them.

new years eve

On New Years Eve, I made my way to her party at 1:30 AM. Only four people remained; her ex-husband, her soon to be ex-husband and her two landlords. She was as beautiful as ever. She had a special dress made for the occasion, her store decked out in authentic Moroccan themed décor. It was hard to hold back my tears. She marveled at the site of me and mentioned how she knew somehow I would make it there. There is something so powerful about contributing to someone’s happiness at such a fragile time. I went out of my way, to try and touch her heart and soul and make a difference. It was a New Year’s Eve I will NEVER forget.

I recently visited and had lunch with her. She is starting to look sick now and is making her way as best she can through these last few months of life.

We always talk about good health, seldom to have seen the reality of what it really implies. So when you wake up each and every day, count your blessings. I know I truly do, now more than ever. Think of how fortunate you are to have your children, if you are so lucky to have any.  Think of your partner, your spouse, your parents and friends. Think about how fragile life truly is. How one minute you can be enjoying, and the next, it can all be taken away on a dime. Take a minute to think if this was your last birthday, what that would be like…


Ladies, if you knew this was your last birthday, how would you live you life? It’s a deep introspective question. One especially fitting on the first day of Passover, a holiday based on suffering and endurance.



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