Red Velvet Cake: How to Live Like You’re Dying


I’ve never had red velvet cake, at least not that I can remember. And who cares? I wouldn’t even think of it except that someone I knew used to brag about how well they made it. I remember thinking, “what a random thing to decide to master, baking red velvet cake, of all things.” Then, I noticed at the café outside the library that they always have red velvet cake, so it stayed in my consciousness in this odd sort of way. Because I thought, “why does this café always have red velvet cake? Not brownies, not chocolate chip cookies, no, red velvet cake.” It was as if the cake was following me.

Now the library café has moved on to a more traditional menu and it sort of bothers me when I walk by that café and don’t see it. I’m bugged that I never had it when it was so easily accessible. But then, I wonder if I had taste that red velvet cake would it be quality red velvet cake or just average, previously frozen red velvet cake? Had it been sitting out for a few days? My snobbish sensitivities kick in and my standards go up. If I’m going to finally try it at age 43, I want it to be the best damn red velvet cake on earth.

I get into these silly standoffs with myself regularly. I’m putting off something because I have an idea of how wonderful, special, and excellent it ought to be SO I NEVER DO IT! Red velvet cake is symbolic of phone calls I’m not making, conversations I’m not having, goals I’m not pursuing….all because I have an idea that it must be a certain way; a call when I have more time, a conversation in a better setting, or a goal pursued when life is different in this way or that. But imagine, if I were living like I were dying, I might not be so particular. I’d have the conversation and pursue the goal with gusto and whatever sloppiness may come along with it! Can you relate to this?

If I’m honest, there’s a part of me that’s worried about taking red velvet cake off my list of things I put off. I can have a bite of food-colored cake (that’s how it’s red, right?) and it is an experience. It means something; the beginning or the end of something, a risk or a reward, a challenge or a relinquishing. My red velvet cakes add texture and interest to my life and force me to both laugh at and celebrate myself as a complicated human being. But holding my red velvet cakes out there, untouched, also means I’m not living into that part of my life. Sure, I might be disappointed. It may not live up to the internal hype. But I don’t want to miss it because I’m waiting for the myth when the chance to really live is right before me.

So, what do you think? What’s that thing you’ve waited to do and what meaning does it hold for you?  Do you want to live like you’re dying?

Then taste the cake.


  1. Good article…but it also could be misconstrued. Meaning, if your red cake is an object of sin, then a person just might take your premise and just the sinful action. Something immediately came up for me in that regard.

    On other non-sin ‘what-ifs”, it’s the business plan that I keep putting off because, because, because….mainly, I think because of the huge undertaking it would be to get something new like that off the ground.

  2. Good point, Matt, about the other category of things that are GOOD for us not to do. I know that for many of us who are Christians, that the reality of nonconsummation of many desires/wants is something that is a delicate and important part of walking as a believer. The matter of abstaining from certain things, of holding the tension that comes with that choice, would be a great thing to write about too. I’ll get on that!

    And hey, hope that business plan takes shape!

  3. Great post! This is helping to motivate me to get started with some summer plans I have been thinking about with my kids. I can so easily put off this kind of thing thinking that tomorrow I’ll be able to make it better–and before I know it the summer is over! The reality is there isn’t a guarantee I will have tomorrow anyway, so why not engage in what today brings.

    1. @KF – it’s not meant to be taken literally. She means all manner of baked goods, not just red velvet cake.

  4. I normally gain a deeper emotional/spiritual insight after reading these blogs, but today all I can think about is red velvet cake. mmmmmm red velvet cake.

  5. I think that we in the US are especially vulnerable to the myth of “amortality”. when was the last time you were with anyone who was actually dying or near death? When we live in the myth of agelessness or just focused on our kids’ growth (us mid-lifers) we forget that we are living the one earthly life we have been given.
    If we realize that this life is a trial version of True Life in the age to come, how much freer we could be to live like we are dying and not fear death or missing out if things don’t work out with our choices/risks in this life

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