The Final Five

Gary Lester

Have you ever said something and then regretted it? I sure have. Some of those things were said years, even decades ago and I still regret them. Some other of those things were said more recently than that. But for the most part, I’ve learned not to say them in the first place. That took a long time.

Note that I said, “for the most part….” I said one of those things to a friend a few weeks ago. Now, you’ve got to understand that this is one of my very best friendships, a close one for more than 50 years. We say all kinds of crazy things to each other. Things that would be considered very inappropriate in most situations, but we celebrate the form and quality of the remarks and never take them seriously.

But this one thing I said…. It really bothered me after I said it. My friend didn’t respond so I figured he didn’t hear me or he didn’t want to dignify the nonsense with a response. We sometimes do that too.

Anyway, the scenario was this. My friend had taken his car to the carwash a couple days before and just realized he had left the rear floor mats there. We encouraged him to stop by the place. I suggested that they probably had a pile the size of a haystack and he’d be able to retrieve the mats.

He ignored the advice for a couple days then we drove by the carwash and I said: “Hey why don’t you stop and see about the mats?” He said: “I suppose I could… it’s only five minutes out of my life.” I should have left it at that. I should have called on that restraint I’ve learned, but I didn’t. I said: “But what if it’s the LAST five minutes… would you want those to be spent looking for floor mats?”

Again, he didn’t respond and frankly, it wasn’t any crazier a comment that we’ve made to each other in our spirit of nonsense before. But this time I regretted saying it because it really bothered ME! It kept coming to mind so, obviously, there was something about it that was troubling.

So, what am going to be doing the last five minutes of my life? Now, if I knew I only had five minutes, I would probably drag a kayak to the Conewango and float off to those never-ending riffles in the great beyond. But it’s very unlikely any of us will know when it’s time to set the timer for that last five minutes.

Suppose I was eating a plate of spaghetti when I got the inkling to start the last five-minute timer. Suppose the timer “dinged” and nothing happened. I’d say to myself: “False alarm!” But then what? Do I immediately reset the time for five minutes and have some more spaghetti? If there’s another ding, do I repeat the process again? This could go on and on and I’d drive myself crazy and gain fifty pounds in the process. So what’s the alternative? Does it really make any sense to live life in five-minute increments with the idea that every segment is going to be my last? Good grief; that’s just plain crazy! Or is it….

After mulling this over for several weeks, I finally came to a conclusion that offered some relief. I decided it would be dangerous to ACT as if the next five minutes were my last. I might want to try some dangerous, crazy stuff and if I was wrong about it being the final five, I’d be in trouble and probably pain. I may even have imposed the last five minutes on myself. But I decided it might be helpful to THINK it might be the last five minutes.

Would I want to spend those thinking about something stupid or dangerous? Probably not.

Would I want to say a few nasty things to a few nasty people? What would be the point?

If I knew I had five minutes, I think the most rewarding thing to do would be to do or say something nice. I’d go out on a positive note that way. And if that sounds like a good idea for the final five, why not all day every day?