A Year to Live – it begins . . .

Posted by on Nov 6, 2012 in Blog | 36 comments


Dear Friends,

As I write this to you, it is 4:17 am in my hometown of Toronto, Canada.  I am in Tel Aviv, Israel.  It is an ancient yet modern city full of life, history and natural beauty. It is gorgeous.   

Sunset at The Old Port of Tel Aviv.

A bit of back story. . . As some of you know, in 2010 my father chose to end his life.  He was not ill and it was a shock.  This fact relates to what I am doing here as I am certain he did not know when the final year of his life began.  I’m even more certain that none of us will know when the final year of our life has begun. 

This experience of suddenly losing my father showed me that anything can happen, at any time.  And I became curious about what it would feel like to know you were living the last year of your life. Knowing you only had 12 months until the end.   Sounds heavy but, I promise, it gets fun!

OK, not yet…but soon. 

Death is a mystery.  Part of me thinks it’s a pathway to the next stage and part of me thinks it’s like lying down and going to sleep forever.  


During my search, I found a book called, ‘A Year to Live’, by Stephen Levine.  Mr. Levine has helped thousands of people face the inevitable: death. Levine noticed many things while working with individuals who were dying. The observations were surprisingly positive.  Many people felt they had a second chance at growth and inner healing.  They also discovered a desire to open more profoundly to life.  He started a program where, even if you were not living with a terminal diagnosis, you could experience living a year as if it was your last 365 days on earth. 

The book that my experiment is based on is for everyone. 

I was hooked. I decided I would start this experiment on the one year anniversary of my father’s passing on April 19th, 2011. That day came…and that day went. I did not start the experiment. 

I set a new start date on my birthday, May 3rd. And this time I write a list of all the things I want to do in my last year of life. It includes staying up all night working on a creative project, trips of a lifetime, flying a small plane, wilderness survival training, solo performances, off-roading in my Jeep and countless adventures!

Twenty-four hours before my birthday and new start date, I think to myself “Tomorrow I begin the last year of my life.”

  I wake up. The day has arrived and still I do not begin. I think to myself, “I can’t do it. I can’t commit to living as if it were my final year.”

This adventure presents walking into the ultimate unknown and challenging our fear of death.  On the surface I was excited about knocking off my bucket list in a mere twelve months.  On a deeper level I was scared stiff about writing my will, planning a memorial (mine!) and saying goodbye forever to everyone I love.  No wonder it took me two years to start! 

The fool stands on the brink of a precipice, heading out on the adventure. 

This challenge I had getting started is what’s known in the Hero’s Journey as the ‘Refusal of the Call’.  A rejection of the path or adventure that’s in front of you. Something in me was not ready. I was scared. Whatever the cause, I did not start. 

All the while I think: What if I don’t go deep enough and only do the fun stuff?  What if I go too deep and sink into a depression? Or on some level, think I’m really going to die?  What if I start to like the idea that I’d be out of here in a year?

Another year comes and goes.

And finally in August of this past summer, I choose another start date.  I’m ready.   

I decide to begin on the evening leading into the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. The experiment officially began at sundown on Tuesday September 17th, when the Hebrew calendar turned over from the year 5772 to 5773.

I mark this transition into my final year by renting a small downtown theatre overnight and inviting two close friends to stay there with me.  It is the first item on my list. We pull an all-nighter on a creative project. We create new rituals, write, and look at ourselves and our lives as women and artists. We go deep and we laugh.  Oh, we laugh!  Then at first light, we pack up our bags, climb into my Jeep and drive to the lake to watch the sunrise. Exhausted and elated we go for Breakfast.

In the woods at wilderness survival training.

And thus begins the ‘A Year to Live’ experiment.

I have no idea what to expect. This project has taken me almost two years to begin and will take a whole year to complete. What I can tell you is that once I decided to do it, something changed. I felt a new energy and everything felt possible. Life-long goals and wishes became To Do lists.

Through this blog I’ll share my experiences, thoughts and feelings over the next year.  The anxieties, adventures, love, forgiveness and unexpected surprises. My wish is to make this experience interactive. I invite you to make comments, talk to me and tell me about your experiences!  

To get started, here is a link to the book I am using as a guide : “A Year to Live – How to live this year as if it were your last.”

In the next post I will share some exercises from the book and pics from tomorrow’s sky diving adventure. WHAT?!  Yes, Skydiving…in Israel! 

Thank you for reading this and for being you.

Let the living begin. The clock is ticking.


Tracey Erin Smith






  1. I will be with you all the way sister. Congrats on this new and profound chapter.

    • Thanks, brother! I’m looking forward to your next chapter too!

  2. Tracey – this is fantastically exciting! Good for you. X

    • Thank-You, Marilla! Your help with the site is invaluable!

  3. OK. Thanks for giving me the heads up!xoxo

    • Any time, Ma! Keep checking back to see what I’m up to. 😉

  4. You are such a great writer. I enjoyed reading your blog and look forward to more in the future.
    Good luck tomorrow with the sky diving. Can’t say I’d be able to do that, last year of my life or not.
    Be safe.

    • Thanks, Janice! It was amazing. Thrill of a life time.

  5. Very cool, Lady Tracey. Kind of hoping the list includes SE Asia travel….

    • Hi Tawnya! Thanks for your note. Where do you live? Love to visit SE Asia!

  6. Once again, you surprise,inspire and fire me up, my dear, dear friend, I love you and your brave, adventurous wise and wonderful soul. To life!

    • Laura! What a great note, thanks! You are a partner on the journey of it all.

  7. Fascinating journey! Congratulations!

    • Thanks, Sophia. Love to hear what you would do with a year to live!

  8. Tracey, I found you because I’ve been going on a journey of my own. As I approached my 50th birthday, I thought I’d travel somewhere on my own, maybe do some voluntourism. I realized, as I thought about that, that what I want to do is learn more about myself. And I want to continue training myself as an artist. If a course seems interesting to me, and the voices in my head said, “You can’t do that!”, then it stands to reason that I have to do it. Did I think I could write a 10 minute show? Hellz, no. Did I think I could do triathlon? Am I up for getting certification in stage combat? And I’m looking for fun, too. Challenging fun.
    Your project takes that up a notch. I’m really interested in exploring that. I love being a fly on your wall.
    I will not be skydiving. I have kids to consider. Plus, I will not be skydiving 😉

    • Marj! Thanks for your great note. You are on quite a journey and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

  9. Amazing. Inspiring! I look forward to being on this journey with you!! Thank you for sharing. xo

    • Thanks, Julie! xox

  10. THIS is inspiring. And mystical. And fun.
    Many blessings to you.

    • Thanks, Derek, that description sounds like you! xox

  11. Hey Tracey,

    I think what you are doing is profound. It’s interesting how long it took you to start. It indicates the situation we’re all in. We think,”Ahhh,I’ll do it tomorrow.”
    I have LOVED Blues guitar since I was in my teens. I’ve known many guitarists and secretly envied them. In my twenties I thought of taking it up and thought, “I’m too old.” Same thing in my thirties and forties. But last New Year’s Eve, at the age of 45,I asked myself,”What do I REALLY want to do?” Immediately,the answer came. Learn guitar. So, on January 21,2012 I rented a guitar and started. After two months,I bought the guitar. I practise every day and after 10 months I’m learning blues songs. I’m LIVING one of my dreams. Can’t wait to hear more from your blog.


    • Wow. Thanks so much, Mike. And way to go on learning the guitar! So AMAZING! xo

  12. You never do anything in a small way- quite a project and adventure.
    It is my personal belief that we don’t regret what we did but what we didn’t do. I try to live my life that way, don’t miss out on any opportunity.
    You my guru have taken it to the next level. Xoxo

    • Amy, thank you! You are inspiring. xox

  13. I’m so fortunate to have come across your spirit and energy on the cusp of your adventure.

    • Thrilled we’ve met, Jane!

  14. love this ! you are such an inspiration!!!! …. and I love that I can TOTALLY hear your voice when I read your blog !! xoxo

    • I love your comment..thanks, Carrie!! Inspires me to keep going!

  15. Tracey, wonderful, beautiful. There have been great chapters of my life i have lived as if i have 4 months to live…I started very young to feel the impermanence of life when i lost my best friend and my father also. I saw the sky to blue blue blue and the wonder of the world and i knew that at any moment things could change…we could disappear. I think i have lost this gift of living…seeing your new commitment to life and this blog is an inspiration. Go Girl Go. xox Kim

    • Kim, thank you so much for your wonderful comments and sharing your story of when you were a little girl, magical. I look forward to a coffee soon. xox

  16. Way to go. This is how I live my life –hence why my company is called Bucket List! Enjoy the journey!

    • Dear Helen,

      Thank-You! You are a fabulous example & you and your daughter are inspiring!


  17. Tracey!!! So, that’s what’s been unfolding for you since we last saw each other! Incredible Journey you’re on! You came into my mind so strongly these days I wanted to email you and then, I come across this awesome and courageous project that you’re sharing through your blog. I wish you the best of the best. In-Joy!!! Hugs, Catherine

  18. just discovered the experiment – I stand in awe of your courage – it inspires me to push myself to greater heights and to take on more challenges – thank you – I hope that somewhere in the next twelve months the UK figures too – mo

  19. WOW! Tracy! everything around you is thrilling, interesting, exciting, inspiring, mystic, and I’d love to read some more and know more about these adventures.
    You got me hooked!

  20. Lady – you continue to inspire and lead the way! Can’t wait to read the next entry! Been thinking of you lots lately while I mull over the subject of a one-woman show. So much love! xo


  1. My Creative Partner in Crime… | SoulOTheatre - [...] To read about the experiment, click here.  And remember to sign up for the [...]

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