Memories flooded back after I read the piece I'm about to share with you. Things like my grandmother saving the "good" silverware and china for "special" occasions. And the time I had to cancel a trip to see my very best friend one weekend at a college reunion and was called by his wife the following Monday to tell me he had died of a heart attack on the golf course. A year later she would be dead of breast cancer. We put off so much for a later day. We put off telling people we love them and then sometimes don't get a second chance. Some of us are even afraid to fall in love because we might get hurt. Life goes so fast. Each moment is so precious.
I'd like to share a note that was faxed to me by a dear friend. It's titled "A Story to Live By," written by Ann Wells of the Los Angeles Times. I think you'll find it as deeply touching as I did. Here it is:
"My brother-in-law opened the bottom drawer of my sister's bureau and lifted out a tissue-wrapped package. `This,' he said, `is not a slip. This is lingerie.' He discarded the tissue and handed me the slip. It was exquisite; silk, handmade and trimmed with a cobweb of lace. The price tag with an astronomical figure on it was still attached. `Jan bought this the first time we went to New York, at least eight or nine years ago. She never wore it. She was saving it for a special occasion. Well, I guess this is the occasion.' He took the slip from me and put it on the bed with the other clothes we were taking to the mortician. His hands lingered on the soft material for a moment, then he slammed the drawer shut and turned to me. `Don't ever save anything for a special occasion. Every day you're alive is a special occasion.'
"I remembered those words through the funeral and the days that followed when I helped him and my niece attend to all the sad chores that follow an unexpected death. I thought about them on the plane returning to California from the Midwestern town where my sister's family lives. I thought about all the things that she hadn't seen or heard or done. I thought about the things that she had done without realizing that they were special.
"I'm still thinking about his words, and they've changed my life. I'm reading more and dusting less. I'm sitting on the deck and admiring the view without fussing about the weeds in the garden. I'm spending more time with my family and friends and less time in committee meetings. Whenever possible, life should be a pattern of experience to savor, not endure. I'm trying to recognize these moments now and cherish them. I'm not `saving' anything; we use our good china and crystal for every special event-such as losing a pound, getting the sink unstopped, the first camellia blossom.
" `Someday' and `one of these days' are losing their grip on my vocabulary. If it's worth seeing or hearing or doing, I want to see and hear and do it now. It's those little things left undone that would make me angry if I knew my hours were limited. Angry because I put off seeing my good friends I was going to get in touch with-someday. Angry because I hadn't written letters that I intended to write-one of these days. Angry and sorry that I didn't tell my family often enough how much I truly love them. I'm trying very hard not to put off, hold back or save anything that would add laughter and luster to our lives.
"And every morning when I open my eyes, I tell myself that it is special. Every day, every minute, every breath truly is a gift from God."
The friend who sent this to me tells me this piece recently appeared on an Internet mailing list devoted to the spiritual aspects of medicine. It certainly hit me in the heart. Included with the story was this phrase by an unknown author: "You've got to dance like nobody's watching, and love like it's never going to hurt."
Time waits for no one,
Charles S. Lauer