Vote Me a Story: Kayla’s Journey, chapter 1

    D minus 30.

    It wasn’t exact, of course, but Kayla treated it as if it were. When you get told at age 45 that you have 30 days left to live, you seize whatever control you can. Hers came in the form of a countdown chart, six squares across, five down. She tacked it to the wall and carried her glass and notebook out onto the porch.

    Thirty days to live. All the compassion her doctor could muster couldn’t soften the blow. Sure she’d been tired, but who isn’t? Three rounds of tests brought worse news than even she had dreamed, but at least she had an answer.

    Kayla thought about all those movies about what to do before you die -– “Last Holiday,” “The Bucket List” and others that escaped her at the moment, but so what? She snorted. Sure, if she had money to burn and felt amazing, she’d be on her way to the airport right now. As it was, she didn’t even have a passport.

    She watched the birds crafting a nest in the plum tree and tried to count blessings. There wasn’t a lot to organize. Thanks to her devotion to FlyLady’s methods, she wouldn’t be spending her last weeks frantically putting affairs in order, or fretting over leaving a paperwork nightmare for her mother. A couple of phone calls should do it.

    Her mother. What on earth was she going to tell her mother? SHOULD she tell her mother? Kayla debated. Maybe she should just tell her it was a thyroid problem and that a prescription would clear it all up. They had resolved old hurts years ago, so there shouldn’t be anything big left unsaid. Maybe just leave a letter for her? Still, not giving Mom a chance to say goodbye seemed mean. Maybe tell her on D minus 3, and leave a letter in the meantime just in case.

    Kayla sighed. She needed to make a list. Several lists, probably. Her will was set, because the only way she’d been able to convince her mother to write one was for them to do them together. But still there were some people she wanted to get together with at least once more, others she wanted to leave notes for, others who should be notified just as a matter of courtesy. I don’t believe this, she thought. I’m dying and I’m worrying about who will be put out not to be told.

    Into the kitchen for a refill. Let the ringing phone go to voice mail. Back onto the porch, into the rocker, watching a pair of squirrels playing tag.

    OK, another list, a mixed blessing list. She’d never have to shovel snow again. Never need her teeth cleaned again. Won’t have to put the storm windows back in …

    Too depressing. She tore the paper out of her notebook, wadded it up and threw it in the yard. It was biodegradable. And so what if she wanted to throw trash in her own yard? How long would it take her neighbors and the city to get a complaint filed and delivered? How deep would the paper wads have to be, anyway? Was it like the weed ordinance?

    Another list, more constructive. Time to dream first, and scale back later. What did she truly not want to leave undone –- and how close could she get?

    OK, visiting the great castles of Europe was out. Maybe she could travel somewhere else, like the U.S. Virgin Islands, and just die quietly on the beach.

    Hey, that might work, she thought. She just had to get over the guilt of freaking out the hotel staff. But since she clearly wasn’t going to have a destination wedding, why not a destination death?

    A delivery truck pulled up in front of the house and her brow furrowed. She hadn’t ordered anything; good thing, she supposed. Still, the driver definitely was approaching her with a package, and it definitely had her name on it.

    She stared at the handwriting as the truck rumbled away. She’d know it anywhere.

    The next chapter used these votes as guides:

Is the package

236 votes went like this:

small, like jewelry? — 16.1 percent, 38 votes

medium, like a book? –- 71.19 percent, 168 votes

large, like a king-sized quilt? –- 12.71 percent, 30 votes

Is it from

217 votes went like this:

her best friend from college? –- 17.51 percent, 38 votes

her high school sweetheart? –- 30.41 percent, 66 votes

her mother? -– 28.11 percent, 61 votes

her eccentric grandfather, who moved off the grid after her grandmother’s death? -– 23.96 percent, 52 votes

If you had 30 days to live, would you tell everyone?

198 votes went like this:

Yes, right away –- 16.67 percent, 33 votes

Some people but not others -– 70.2 percent, 139 votes

Yes, but not until I had a week or so left –- 4.55 percent, 9 votes

No, I’d keep it a secret -– 8.59 percent, 17 votes

    This post originally appeared on, the online home of the Midland (MI) Daily News. Republished with permission.

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