This memory is so clear to me: Sorrento, Italy. Throwing open a set of French doors and looking out over a lemon grove, the scent of citrus so strong that it saturated my clothes, my hair, until I left. Smelling that air, turning to look at the two friends standing behind me, all three of us struck silent at the beauty below us. I remember sitting beneath those same lemon trees the following morning. Sitting with good friends, a tiny kitten weaving its way around my legs as we drank foamy cups of cappuccino. We sat under the lemon trees and nibbled on croissants and fresh fruit, and at that moment I became fully aware that these moments would be burned into my mind until the end of my life. I felt so profoundly grateful for every moment that we sat beneath those trees. Our lives would shift and change paths, but we would always have those memories preserved in my mind, long after our adventures in Italy were over.
It is memories like these, these pieces of time, that have become woven into the great tapestry of my life. As time goes on, and I grow older and older, I have accumulated more and more of these slices of time and place. A certain scent, a snatch of song, the way the light looks at a certain time of day-any of these things can send me back into these places in time that I collect and guard carefully. In my darkest times, I go back to these places and savor those moments all over again. I go back, and I am sustained.
Several years ago, I dreamt of my death. In this dream, I spent my days drifting from one familiar, well-loved place to another. Somewhere in the middle of this dream, a friend approached me and asked me what being dead was like.
"You just hop from one good memory to the next," I replied. "You spend your days revisiting all the places and people that you loved the most. This is why you should travel a lot. And if you can't travel, at least spend your life making good memories. Because after your life is over, that is all you have left."
I never forgot this dream, and years later, I still spend my days trying to create good memories. Because even if it was just a dream...what if it is true?