If You Had a Few Weeks to Live, Where Would You Go?

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If you had a few weeks to live, where would you go?

A few years ago, writer Roger Cohen asked this question in an opinion piece in the New York Times called “In Search of Home.” He talked about the “landscape of childhood” that place of “unfiltered experience, of things felt rather than thought through, of the world in its beauty absorbed before it is understood, of patterns and sounds that lodge themselves in some indelible place in the psyche and call out across the years.”*

There are places in our world that have to take us in, and then there are those places of our greatest connection and comfort. They are often two completely different places.

We are living in a time of unprecedented loneliness; a time where millions feel like outsiders but rarely express those feelings. Cohen says that if you dig in to the underlying cause of depression in many people, you will discover that “their distress at some level is linked to a sense of not fitting in, an anxiety about belonging: displacement anguish.” 

Writer James Wood calls this “contemporary homelessness” the issue of our time. The immigrant, the refugee, the expat, the third culture kid, the military kid, the military family, the diplomat, the person who moves coast to coast and back again in the same country – all of us live in places where home is hard to define, perhaps even harder to feel.

So, if you had a few weeks to live, where would you go? Merely asking the question can make one anxious. How can I pick one place? And yet, when James Wood asked Christopher Hitchens where he would go if he had a few weeks to live, Mr. Hitchens did not hestitate. He immediately said it would be his childhood home. This is one of the things that distinguishes those raised in one place to those raised in many: our responses, not only to the question of where is home, but to other, more abstract questions about place and connection to place.

My response reflects a life lived between. 

I would book a flight to my places – Egypt and Pakistan. I would take a Felucca ride on the Nile River on a late June afternoon, where breezes are slow in coming but the air is cool and laden with jasmine. I would sit on my friend Marty’s balcony and drink coffee or one of her famous mango smoothies. I would book a room at the Marriott Hotel overlooking the gardens. I would sit outside until late at night, sipping a fresh lime and soda, listening to the sounds of the city from the cocoon of a beautiful garden. Then I would pack my bags, trading the sound of palms swaying for the sound of pine trees in the mountains of Murree. I would visit the school in Pakistan that shaped me, and whisper words of gratitude.

I would move on to Sindh where dust-colored bouganvillea crawl up old brick houses. I would visit dear friends and eat curry until my nose runs. I would sit on the floor in a hot church service, ceiling fans whirring above me, and belt out Punjabi songs of worship. I would sing loud and not care if I got the words wrong. I would catch a flight to Karachi and go to Hawkes Bay for a day and bargain at Bohri Bazaar for brightly colored shalwar and chemise outfits that I don’t need. I would say my goodbyes to a country that profoundly shaped who I am and what I love.

I would arrive in the United States at Terminal E, exhausted but glowing with the joy of life.  I would go to Rockport where I would gather my kids and others I love together at Emerson Inn. We would watch the sun rise over the rocky coast, and then it would be over. I will have said my goodbyes.

I laugh as I write this. Christopher Hitchens response was short and pointed “No, I’d go to Dartmoor, without a doubt.” Dartmoor was the landscape of his childhood. But even when given a limited time period, I can’t pick just one place. I still choose to live between.At the deepest core, I am a nomad who can’t contain the worlds within, nor would I want to. The exercise shows me that I would not choose any other life or any other way, and my heart fills with gratitude. I am too fortunate.


I, like many of this era, am a nomad rich with diverse experiences, yet will never be able to collect all of my place and people-specific memories together in one place, in one time. Saudade: a song for the modern soul.- Karen Noiva


HOW ABOUT YOU? IF YOU HAD A FEW WEEKS LEFT TO LIVE, WHERE WOULD YOU GO?

*In Search of Home by Roger Cohen

6 thoughts on “If You Had a Few Weeks to Live, Where Would You Go?

  1. Oh boy. That’s a tough tough question. Would I choose to live in Malaysia, where I am currently being brought up, or would I go back to the UK, where I was born and my toddler-friends abide. Or would I head down to Singapore, where yet more of my friends live. Or maybe the United States, where an abundance of my closest friends live.

    Real toughie.

    In the end though, I think I would pick Malaysia, my host country. All the best food is here. :D

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  2. Marilyn. in giving thought to your question (if I had just a few weeks to live where would I go) here are some of the thoughts that popped into mind. We’ve made more houses into homes than I can count. We traveled the U.S and I think were in all but 4 states. We’ve been to Canada. In fact, we once lived in Toronto for 6 weeks. We left footprints in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East. We put down roots in Pakistan, the country we were associated with for 34 years. There are places on our bucket list we’ve not visited. We’ve had the same address and line telephone number for the last 24 years; the longest we’ve ever been in one place. We’ve traveled extensively. They’ve been busy and challenging years indeed, but never boring. You may be surprised but I think I would choose to stay right here and take in the sounds, smells and sights surrounding me. I would love to spend serious time bird watching. I would spend hours flipping through the several guest books we’ve kept, reflecting on the hundreds of friends and strangers who graced our home with their presence. I would reconnect with friends and relatives I’ve not seen for a long time. I would write. I would read. There will be one more trip for me and I think I would want to learn more about that destination (Heaven). This might take more than a few weeks!

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  3. If I had a few weeks to live…I’m not sure where I would go. Hawkes Bay perhaps, but before our mission owned the CBreeze, we spent a week at the CMS hut at Sandspit. You were 2 Marilyn, too young to remember. It was the first time I had ever spent a week at any beach. If I were to go back to just one place, I think it would be that hut on Sandspit Beach. It wasn’t even a temporary home though, just a fantastic vacation. The weather was perfect, our watches were in a shop for repair and we timed everything by the sun. When I think of our many homes, I realize that it was by God’s grace I was able to make a home for our family in so many different places. And I was able to settle and really feel at home for 3 months or a year or 3 or 4 years. The framed print over the sofa reads Home is Where God Sends Us. Around the edges are listed all the places we lived in Pakistan and the USA. When I think of all those places, the people we met, the varied experiences we had, I am so grateful to the Lord for arranging our lives the way He did. Thanks for this piece, it brought back so many memories.

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