While taking A Million Steps on the Camino de Santiago, I met a family that left quite an impression on me. Joseph and Tobi were walking the path with their two children, Mateo, seven, and Pasqual, two. The love that flowed within this family was unbelievable. I witnessed their glowing bond during an evening where we all slept on a floor in one large room.  They made me contemplate relationships with my own family.

I am very fortunate to be able to take an extended vacation with my mom each year. For the past twenty years, we make an early exit from the Idaho winter and migrate to Palm Springs, CA. The trip began as a ten day vacation and has morphed into a two month journey.  Many lovers, friends, and family members have joined us on this trip, but the core remains the same.  For some ridiculous self-imposed reason, I used to feel strange about spending so much time together.  Now, I am filled with gratitude and appreciate each and every moment that presents itself during the sunfest.  My best memories come from the small events that seep into each day.

Last Thursday was the end of this year’s trip and the memories already have nice roots. While watching the Grammys, she looked at me and said, “You know that Kim celebrity girl that married the angry negro singer? Did you know she has a big ass?”

Me, “Yes, yes I do.”

On another occasion, we drove by fenced area with a stunning red metal sculpture at the entrance.  We pulled in and were surprised to find ourselves at a small cemetery. On the drive back to the condo, I inquired about her preference for burial or cremation when that dreaded day comes.  She responded, “I really want to be cremated, but my mother-in-law bought me a plot and I would hate to see it go to waste.”  I almost drove off the road with laughter while appreciating that frugality is bred into her soul.

For many years, golf has been a major part of this trip.  This year, at age 79, she decided that hiking would be a new avenue for us to discover the area.  She bought a nice pair of Merrell boots that were of course pink.  We devoured thousands of vertical feet and probably covered 50-60 miles over the 2 months.  Her walking stick, Howling Wolf, provided stability as we enjoyed exercise, conversation, and nature. Her flamboyant golf clothes raised a few eyebrows from the REI-clad locals.

Death is life’s greatest teacher.  Your last breath extinguishes all wealth, takes away all of the trivial problems that clutter our minds, and instantly makes us all the same. The grim reaper rarely gives notice so why not learn the lessons of death while life is present?  How much time and energy is spent chasing bright shiny objects and worrying about tomorrows unhatched problems.  If you knew that one week was left, how would you rearrange your time and pursuits?

I would much rather generate a ginormous blister walking up the mountain beside my mom than wearing a Rolex to her funeral.