If you were to die today, would you be happy with the legacy you left behind. What will be said about you when you’re gone?
These were the thoughts that plagued Heather Anne Naples’ mind in the moments she thought she was dying.
After having an excruciating headache lasting four days, Heather had exhausted all home-remedy treatments with no relief. Still she believed her doctor when he told her not to worry.
“I called my doctor, I’ve had headaches before and this was no cause for concern, he said,” Heather wrote on her blog, Heart & Home. “And then, in the middle of the night…it popped.”
Like that, Heather’s headache was gone. But it was only the beginning of the end. At least—that’s what she thought.
“As sudden as the headache had come it was gone, and I felt or heard a “pop” in my head that woke me from my sleep, followed by a warm sensation rushing through my brain. A friend had recently lost her mother to a brain aneurysm and I thought, “This is it,” as I shook my husband awake and frantically called 911.”
Positive she was experiencing the final moments of her life, Heather was only focused on one thing—her daughter in the next room.
“I sat on the carpet in our hallway, rocking back and forth while clutching my knees as I waited for the ambulance, and distantly heard the dispatcher’s voice in my ear, as I asked my husband to turn on his video camera.”
Preparing for the worst, Heather instructed her husband to get out his phone. Speaking directly to her daughter through the camera, she was determined to try to fit a lifetime of love and devotion into one final video message to her sweet baby girl—no pressure.
“I heard my daughter crying in her crib as I repeated over and over, ‘She will never remember me,’ and began a dialogue in to my husband’s phone that I prayed she would never have to hear.
Hi baby, I’m your mama. And I love you so very much.”
In the moments that followed, paramedics worked to save Heather’s life. All the while, she had the rare opportunity to truly reflect on her life—who she had been, how she had treated people, and the type of person she’d be remembered as.
“And that was the night my life changed.”
Heather explains motherhood as a piece of your heart walking around outside of your body after your child is born.
“And as the paramedics arrived that night and began their work, I realized that if those were to be my final moments, the tiny piece of my soul that was crying out my name from the next room would never have a chance to know me. In fact, she wouldn’t even remember me. All she would have is what I left behind; pictures, written notes, and most importantly, the stories people told her of me.”
Heather asked herself on the way to the hospital what those stories would be, and she didn’t like the answer.
So she decided to change it.
“As a mother, as a parent, as someone who walks this earth and interacts with others, I ask you to ask yourself, what will be said about you when you are gone?
Are you kind? Are you gentle? Are you giving? Are you loving?
I am. Now.”
It’s been two years of overcoming her health issues. But nothing about that journey has had such magnitude as the night she almost died.
It took nearly dying for her to truly LIVE.
Reflecting on how people would remember her and share her memory with her daughter, Heather realized it’s OK if she hadn’t been that person in the past. Now, given the second chance, she vowed that her past wouldn’t define her future, and the only thing that mattered was making the changes that would allow her to be that person now.
“The power of replacing one negative thought or comment with a positive one is life altering. The power of surrounding yourself with people and circumstances that bring out the best in you is unimaginable. Take a look at your daily life and interactions, and if changes need to be made, make them. It is as simple as you allow it to be.”
It took some time, and Heather will be the first to admit that she’s an imperfect person living in an imperfect world, but eventually she was able to see her intentionality pay off.
After sitting with a friend for several hours of conversation, the friend made a remark about how Heather never spoke badly about anyone. It’s the moment that helped her realize that while she may have previously engaged in “mean girl” conversation, getting into a pattern of authentic discussions was so much easier and healthier.
At the end of it all, Heather just wants others to reflect on their life while they still have the chance. Thankful to have been given a second chance at life, she feels like part of her purpose is to share her story and inspire others to make a change in their own lives.
“Live. Put your phone down. Talk to the person in front of you. Hold the door for people. Smile if someone catches your eye. Say thank you. Say please. Give hugs. Compliment people. Compliment yourself. Love yourself. No one will remember what size the pants are you are wearing, but they will remember the way you walked in them. So walk softly. Speak boldly. Love gently. Laugh loudly. Call someone if they cross your mind. Allow yourself to be happy for others, and most importantly allow yourself to be happy for yourself, through every stage and step of your life. Be happy. Life doesn’t have to be perfect for it to be perfect.”
She ends her post by sharing what she hopes people would tell her daughter about her now: that she smiled, and laughed.
“And most importantly, that I loved. That I loved every single second of every second I was given.
And I hope someone will say the same about you as well.”