I believe time is short. Most people live day to day. Go to work, get the check list done, watch the news and sleep. People make promises to themselves and others but often don’t have the foresight to carry them out in a “timely fashion.” It’s during these lulls in life that events go by. People live in a fog and forget to look at what is offered to them, like time with people they care about or chances to be spontaneous and fulfill life’s purpose, happiness. Time is short but many people do not take advantage of opportunities time presents.
Time was stopped for me on a tepid spring day 2008. Light flocked through the window to the wooden floor. The grass tops were bent with New Hampshire’s spring breezes; the patio was hot from the sun. I picked out a fork from the shining silverware, pausing to look at my piano players hands, veins clear blue from the light. My dad’s voice broke the moment, “Shannie, we have to talk to you.” I looked up, my mind focusing on “the now.” The only time both my parents had to talk to me was when something tragic was happening or had already happened. They did it a few months ago when they broke it to me that my mom had breast cancer. It was too soon for them both to be here again. My heartbeats felt lighter, like small mouse paws in my tight chest. “Your Uncle Paul, well,” my dad paused and glanced at my mom. My mom started speaking, “Honey, he fell the other day, on the ice. He was going to the store. Well, honey, you know how those long Vermont winters can be.” Nervous half attempt at a smile here. Back to solemnity, “He’s in the hospital, bu-ut he’s in a coma and…” At this pause my eyes darted back and forth, fast as the mouse in my chest. “The doctors say he isn’t going to wake up boo. I’m sorry.” The last words were a whisper.
I don’t know what they expect after they tell me these things. They stare like I am going to burst out in tears. I rose, my bare feet highlighted on the floor. “oh..okay.” I said, my voice sounding hollow and separate from myself. I thought they could already see through my charade. “Do you need to talk about it?” they chorus..or maybe only one of them said it. But now all I am focused on is reaching the safety of my room.
The next three days were left to my dad packing to go sit by my Uncle Paul’s side and me feeling listless and going through society’s time wasting movement. It was at basketball practice that I got the call. My dad was sitting next to him as he drew his last breaths. Within a day my brother, mom and I were in Vermont, for the funeral no one saw coming.
After the funeral I left the wake. I walked up and down the only main street. I bought beads from a local store and felt the most relaxed I had all week. I realized you can’t trust tradition. Just because someone has been to the last 60 family reunions does not mean they’ll make it to 61. I always talked to people with the same politeness at these family reunions, some I was closer to than others. Uncle Paul was always one of my favorite adults but I generally treated him with the same politeness as the other adults, because let’s face it, what could we talk about beyond most polite conversation? At least, that’s what I thought, three days before this walk. I thought at many times, I will make them a card for that good news, or, I will ask them about the war if they love talking about it. When I got the opportunity I became shy and promise it will happen the next time. There isn’t always a next time.
Carpe Diem is the most honorable quote I know of now. From my hilly year last year I learned that most people aren’t worth trusting or caring about. You look for the good and then you find your friends. It’s not worth having a huge circle of people; it’s just that many more risks of being hurt. For those you do befriend; carpe diem every moment. My spontaneity with my friends is unlimited and uninhibited. Time is always available. There is no excuse for missed opportunities or opportunities not made. Don’t let expectation deter life’s goodness and fullness. Life is short, time is shorter.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.