Your Final 8 Minutes


The Enlightened One
The Enlightened One.

“But, you’re gonna die soon, Daddy,” said my 4-yo, through the beginning of tears. “I don’t want you to die,” he continued. I rubbed his soft tummy, as we lay in the shadow of his bottom bunk a few weeks back.
“Why do you say that?” I asked, my curiosity deepening.
“Because you’re big.” Big means old in Bodhi-speak.
“I’m going to live a long time, so don’t you worry,” I said, feeling so much love for this sentient creature, as he wrapped his fingers around my wrist.
“I don’t want to die, Daddy,” he said.
“You have a very long beautiful life ahead of you, Bodhi. Don’t you worry, baby boy.” I kissed his cheeky face and stroked his silken skin as he fell asleep.

Buddah sat beneath a Bodhi tree when he became one with all. In fact, Bodhi means enlightened one in Sanskrit. Is my youngest son enlightened? He’s a pitiful listener, and when unhappy, has the most unenlightened screech I’ve ever heard. But, Bodhi’s quotient of random I love yous is 10x the rest of ours. He regularly places Jodi and my hands together and insists, aggressively at times, that we be a physical couple in his presence. He’s always petting us, literally stroking our arms and hands, not in a needy way, but in a way that affirms our fundamental bond to him. As if he is an extension of us and this touch makes him whole. He is the group hug instigator and the leader of the snuggle parties we four have in our bed many mornings. “Rub” he demands often, as he places his arm or foot or back before me. “Scratch,” is another of his dictates.

On a daily basis, this little boy shows me, by example, the magic and critical role of physical touch in a deep love connection. He teaches me how to give affection overtly and voraciously. 

In other words, Bodhi is proving more and more true to his namesake everyday. And so, to hear him pronounce with such authority that I am to die soon gave me pause. I lay beside him until he fell asleep, then, out of nowhere, from behind the veil, he chuckled. About what, I cannot say. But then, a few moments later, his face changed and he said, “He’s already dead.” What is my little Buddah relaying?

This weekend, I was part of a large guided Death Meditation in the mountains above Ogden UT at the magnificent Summit Series. I had absolutely no idea what a death meditation was. We all lay in a tranquil room on our backs, as our guide, aptly named Angel, had us visualize the final 8 hours of our life. She walked us through the physiological timeline of our body systems shutting down and had us consider the ideas one faces in the final moments. One question really got me thinking.

“Whose voice do you wish to hear as you die?”

Then, Angel dropped, “Who do you wish to have touching your skin as you die?” I’d never pondered either of these, and I tried to exit my mind and let my heart respond. The answer came clearly to me – Bodhi. My youngest child is who I want to guide me out. Of course, I adore my first son with every cell in my being (I wrote a whole book about him, fercrissakes). And I love my wife … and siblings. But, every day, Bodhi earns that special place with his insistent physical outreach. More and more, I believe Bodhi is some kind of spirit guide; I’m not even sure what that means.

Goodbye Old Friend, 20"X23" Acrylic, paper, antique book pages and cardboard on panel with original poetry, 2005, Stuart Sheldon
Goodbye Old Friend, 20″X23″ Acrylic, paper, antique book pages and cardboard on panel with original poetry, 2005, Stuart Sheldon

Angel asked another potent question – “What mattered?”

What will you consider important in your journey at 4-minutes-and-counting?

Again, I tried not to think but to intuit the answer from below my neckline. My conclusion could not be more trite nor cliche … straight out of a Top-40 song. But I believe it to be the bare truth of human existence. All that matters at 4-minutes is that you loved and were loved. Period. That is our infinite legacy, beyond the book you wrote and the disease you cured and the company you sold.


Hopefully, we all have considerably more than 4-minutes remaining on our hourglasses. Why wait? Let’s love bigger. More recklessly. More fully. Let’s allow ourselves to be loved more deeply. With less fear and reserve. Let’s scratch and rub more. Snuggle more. Touch me when you see me; hug me. I’m serious.

I’m 50 and hope to live a long life … but who knows? I told my boys recently that, were I to be gone, I would want them to know simply that I loved them more than anyone can love anything. And that I wanted them to be gentlemen. I doubt such things can really be heard by 4 and 6 yr-olds. But I said it, just in case. What I did not say but thought was Thank you so much for allowing me to feel within myself the supernova of emotion burning its brightest. I am truly happy because of you, and were I to die tomorrow, my life was complete with you in it.

39 thoughts on “Your Final 8 Minutes

  1. I’m supposed to comment here — I know that, but I’m speechless, Stuart. your post is just so damn beautiful. the funny part in me wants to say, hey – how come I don’t have cool kids like that, but the wise part of me says, I already do.

    it’s my eldest daughter, Katherine. she’s “not your average bear.” never has been, never will be. it’s one of the most maddening things about her (did I admit that outloud?), but it’s also the best. she has debilitating social anxiety. I’m a little woo-woo myself, as I now know that you are (LOL with appreciation!), and I asked my psychic about it once. she said that in her last life, Katherine lived in the time of jack the ripper & she was a little street waif, always having to watch her back because no one she came into contact with could be trusted. there’s more to this story, of course – the reason why she wouldn’t let me help her, etc. , but the important part is that Katherine loves me in a way that’s deep and knowing, and our connection is great.

    so those last four minutes? I’ve watched quite a few shows about near-death experiences, and I’d venture to guess that you have as well. the other universal experience, other than being drawn toward a bright shining light and that a family member will come to them & explain why it’s not really their time to go yet, that they’ve yet to accomplish what they’ve been put on this earth to do – people here still need them, the other thing is that they’re shown an electric-type energy grid (everything is energy) that connects us all throughout eternity.

    and of course, as you say — it’s not what we did, but rather what we had that’s important: love.

    we’ve got to meet for coffee one day!

    🙂 martha

    1. Martha,
      You honor me by sharing such precious and intimate truths. Thank you. What I am learning w my kids is how powerful the complexity of their characters are. They are not one thing. They are so many things, for better or worse. We will certainly have coffee one day, if not tequila. How about both?

  2. That was incredibly touching, Stuart; thank you for it, My daddy passed on last summer, with my son & I at hos side and my voice in his ear. We wanted him to know (and hope he felt), at that 4 minute mark, how deeply he was loved; because you are correct that there is nothing else that matters at that moment … nothing.

  3. Tears are flowing. That was so beautiful and heartfelt, Stuart! As the years pass, I have learned that LOVE is the only truth. Thanks for reminding me and hug that little boy for me!

  4. Ditto! How lucky your family is to have you and to be able to read all of your writings forever. Love you Stu…. XO

  5. Dear Stuart,
    I’m in awe of your post. thank you. HEARING & FEELING your words like an arrow to my heart. I’m a single mom to 6 year old Maya, who has a mind of her own. Though I’m ancient enough to be her Grandmother, she is really the wise one. Smart, stubborn & wise. She often says to me, “Mommy, please do not die, who will take care of me?” Thank you for reminding me that true LOVE really is the only thing that really matters and is the best part of the journey we share on this plane. Thank you Stuart for sharing your family, your heart and soul with us today. And for reminding us of what is most important. With love and best wishes to you and yours, Lisa Friedman York

    1. “Though I’m ancient enough to be her Grandmother, she is really the wise one. ” Now THAT’s some mommy wisdom right there!

  6. Touching. Deeply emotional and personal. I too have felt that “I’m complete, I’m good” sentiment. Brings back tough memories for me. I was the final moment, the final touch, and saw the final tear trickle down my Dad’s cheek. Why me? Being the last one to see, hear and feel a loved one’s last breath is both a blessing and a curse. I did it so my mom and sister would not have to. I’m not sure my presence was totally welcomed and not certain what those last tears meant. But I know they were conscious tears. It’s a struggle. Life goes on. All I do know is that at that moment, everything that has transpired prior in your life is pretty much trivial. Since you are sharing, I’m sharing too. Peace and Love.

    1. Thank you, Steve. Brave and raw stuff. I am sure your presence was welcomed. Because you are solid and beautiful. And I fully understand the static you covertly refer to. No doubt life is one big mofo of a struggle. But you’re treading a fine path on the high road. Not much more one can do but that. I LOVE YOU.

  7. My Brother, thanks for sharing the love. You’re a good man. We’ve had 50 solid years together…let’s shoot for another 50 great ones.


  8. Lovely. Poignant. Your insight and always journey of self reflection is wonderful. And the seminar…is it only offered in Utah? Do you have contact of leader? I am exploring ways to contribute to the shifting of the paradigm for how we talk about and deal with death. After the journey I was so blessed to be a part of with my mom. Her last year and month and day and hour ending in her final breath taken in my arms was a heart wrenching sacred beautiful journey. Being witness to death, talking about death, exploring ideas around death, all to really be more mindful and aware and full of gratitude as we live fully. This is perfectly part of that. I’d love to learn more. And have just added you to my death and dying list. Which for now is just a list of people embracing the conversation….which means already contributing to this paradigm shift. So thank you for your insight sharing and ability to express as you do. Vanna

    1. I’m impressed Vanessa. You are diving deep into the forbidden realm. One which warrants far more exploration than we typically avail. My experience was a one-off, part of a special weekend. I will see if I can find more about the leader of the meditation and will share it if I do.

      Your mother is so profoundly fortunate to have had you with her, holding her and affirming her existence as she moved on to the next level. That is rare and optimal in my eyes.

  9. Kids ask difficult questions sometimes. They often make you think about things you otherwise would prefer not to.
    Henry talks about death often. He says he doesn’t want to die or asks if he’s going to die. He talks about me dying too. I tell him the same things you tell Bodhi.
    It’s tough putting these things into words a three year old can understand.
    Unfortunately, having lost both grandfathers, my kids have experienced what it’s like losing a loved one at very early ages.
    I can fully relate to your feelings about Bodhi. There is something about Henry that reaches to my core. I don’t know if it’s a past life kind of thing(I haven’t explored that yet). All I know is, that boy and I have a connection that is powerful beyond measure……even though I want to ring his little neck sometimes.
    Can’t wait to see you in the high country next week.

    1. Roni,
      You have succeeded in a 100% mind-meld w the following, “All I know is, that boy and I have a connection that is powerful beyond measure……even though I want to ring his little neck sometimes.”

      Love you darlin!

  10. Stu, you nailed it once again. So thankful that I get to read your posts. You truly have a special way with words and conveyance. So thought provoking, and a perfect escape from the work that distracts me from what really matters. Thanks bro !

  11. Hello Stuart,

    My mother-in-law sent me this blog knowing how much I would enjoy it. She was right. Children are so much more intune then we are since we have been bogged down with earthy fears. I told my husband ‘ see there is a reason why I pet you all the time.’ Thank you for enlightening me. I’m sure to put that in my next book. I write books for children to help remind them why we come to earth school and love is always at the core. I often ask spirit to reassure me that what I write is the right message and as spirit does it brought me proof. This morning your post was my proof. For this I thank you and Bodhi. And above all I send you love.

    1. TY Dianne, our kids really are our teachers more than anything. I certainly have much to learn. Keep stroking your hubby. He likes it. I promise.

  12. This post made me feel warm inside and shed a tear…all so powerful and true. I too have shared these conversations and insights…questions with my boy and reading your post made me realized the universal experience we all have with our kids from time to time and I am once again reminded of the impermenance of our existence…

    With love, compassion and shared experience…Mark

  13. Your post reminded me of a Soren Kierkegaard quote,
    “to cheat oneself out of love is the most terrible deception;
    it is an eternal loss for which there is no reparation
    neither in time or eternity”.
    And yet so many go through each day without love in their presence.
    Here’s to more love for everyone.

  14. Thank you Stuart and thank you Bodhi! The power of touch is much more powerful than words and a hug is magical. Love and miss you all on the dock 🙂

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