Heather Anne Naples was sure she was dying.

Heather Anne Naples

As she wrote on her blog, Heart & Home, it all began with a four-day headache. It was so bad that it resisted every treatment she tried. But Naples believed her doctor when he told her not to worry. She wrote:

I called my doctor, I’ve had headaches before and this was no cause for concern, he said. And then, in the middle of the night … it popped.

The headache disappeared, but what followed was worse:

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.

Certain that she was living her last moments, Naples’s thoughts were focused on 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.

That’s when she decided to make sure that if the worst happened, her daughter would have a way to remember her. Speaking into the camera on her husband’s phone, she tried to pour a lifetime of love into one last message:

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 very much.”

As the ambulance arrived and paramedics worked to save Naples’s life, she had the opportunity to think about the legacy she was leaving behind. That’s when she had an epiphany. She wrote:

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.

The real question, she realized, was what would those stories be? How would others remember her to her daughter?

Heather Anne Naples

And when Naples asked herself that question, she came to another realization:

I didn’t like the answer.

So I made the decision to change it.

Though it took two years to overcome her health issues, nothing changed Naples so profoundly as her reflections that night. As she wrote on her blog, it changed her life:

The way I thought about life, and the way I had been living it, would never be the same.

Thinking about how people would remember her made Naples focus on who she wanted to be. What’s more, it was okay if she hadn’t been that person in the past. What mattered was making a change and being that person now.

Before, she might not have been remembered as kind, gentle, loving, and giving. But she wanted to make sure that was how she would be remembered now.

As she wrote, changing can be as simple as replacing negative impulses — thoughts, comments, or judgments — with positive ones:

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.

As Naples worked to change herself from the inside, others noticed her new approach to life. One friend even commented on how Naples didn’t say anything negative about anyone else. That’s when Naples realized her change in mindset had been so complete that she’d forgotten she used to engage in “mean girl” conversations.

Naples stresses she isn’t perfect and isn’t trying to preach to others about how to live. But having been given a second chance at life, she wants people to know how easy it can be to leave a happy, loving legacy behind. She wrote:

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.

Now, when Naples thinks about how she wants to be remembered to her daughter, she has the perfect answer. And it’s the same thing she hopes we can all have someone say about us:

“That I smiled. That I laughed. And most importantly, that I loved. That I loved every single second of every second I was given.”

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