My brother has an aesthetic clinic as part of his medical practice. Many times he’s offered me free procedures to iron out wrinkles, look younger, stuff like that.

Some of the procedures involve poking little holes in your skin so it forces it to rejuvenate, some involve chemical peels that burn off the old top layer, you know the spiel.

I’ve always resisted taking him up on his generosity.

When my sister died six and a half years ago, at the age of 44  it changed my perspective on my dreams. It made me realize how short life is.

She had a lot of dreams she wasn’t able to complete in the short span of her life. Ultimately she said the one thing she left behind, her one legacy, were her children.

I think there’s a very important reason your hair starts turning grey and your skin starts to sag after forty. It’s a visual reminder that you won’t live forever, you’d better get going on what really matters to you.

I told my brother that I wanted to leave those reminders in place. They would help me prioritize.

They have!

My father always laughed at the idea of celebrating birthdays. He always said, “Why are they celebrating when they’ve got one less year to live?”

He has a very different perspective on things!

As soon as we’re born we begin to die.

When my granddaughter and grandson were born, I looked at their precious little faces and thought, that means that one day they will die. I just hope I’m not around to see it.

Selfishly, I wouldn’t mind going first.

When my sister passed, one thought went through my head. She’s lucky that she died in the arms of her family. And while I was helping to bathe her, I couldn’t help hoping that when my time came, whoever did the rites would be as gentle with me as we were with her.

The last rinse of her body was with water mixed with camphor. I had always heard of camphor but I’d never seen it before. It was in the form of little white waxy clumps that didn’t quite dissolve in the water. It’s part of the sunnah, the practice of the Prophet (peace be upon him) to rinse the body with camphor so we did so, and some of the camphor stuck to the shroud even after we wiped her dry.

It has a very light scent. Not perfumy, quite clean.

I really like the Muslim funeral rites. They’re very simple. Bathe the body, wrap the body in white cotton/linen and then put it in a pine box. Sometimes it can all be done in one day.

The women bathe the women, the men bathe the men. Anyone can do so. My husband helped bathe a stranger who’d come to town and died with no relatives nearby.

One of my daughters told me that I’m becoming known for helping at deaths. I was surprised when she said that.

One of my husband’s cousin’s wives is known for helping at births, and apparently I’m known for helping at deaths.

I guess it began with one of my husband’s cousins. Her son, only fourteen at the time, was dying of cancer. She was camped down at the Hospital for Sick Children and they needed someone to help take care of her while she was taking care of her son.

I didn’t have to do much. I’d make her tea. I’d warm up her food. People were always dropping it off and leaving it in the fridge. And we’d talk.

He didn’t last long. It was only for a few weeks. There was a white board in the nurse’s station and one day I noticed that one of the kids who’d been a patient on the floor, his name was gone from the board, it had been erased. Then I realized that this was the palliative care ward.

By the time her son slipped into the coma, the other relatives came by and I wasn’t needed any more. A few days before this happened was Eid ul Fitr. That’s the celebration that occurs after Ramadan. It’s the one we give a lot of gifts to the kids.

My kids asked me what the boy would like for Eid. I just looked at them blankly. “Nothing.”

They couldn’t believe that he wouldn’t want any Eid gifts. I told them he didn’t need anything, except health, and that seemed out of reach.

My eldest daughter chose not to go down to visit, and that was okay. The twins, surprisingly went with me. They held up pretty well. Soon after that, perhaps the next day, he slipped into a coma and passed away.

What amazed me about him was his incredible strength. He never complained. It wasn’t like in LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE show, where Michael Landon is helping the dying person in denial to face up to things, and where the dying would start railing against God.

Nope. Nothing like that at all.

This fourteen year old boy taught me how I want to die.

It’s so easy to get distracted by daily life. To forget the things you really want to accomplish in this life. They say you should live every day as if it’s your last because one day it will be.

That, and wear clean underwear…

I try to do both.

But when I forget about priorities, when I get caught up in the daily grind, I just have to look in the mirror and see the slow transformation that’s occurring. To me it’s a gift to remind me, hurry up, don’t delay, time’s awasting.

There’s one hadith (saying of the Prophet (peace be upon him)  that embodies this better than anything else. He said, Make good use of five things before five things overtake you. Use your health before you become sick, your youth before you become old, your wealth before you become poor, your time before you get busy, and your life before you die.