Moments Are Momentous

Tim Gibson - Cincinnati, Ohio
As heard on The Bob Edwards Show, July 26, 2013
Tim Gibson

When Tim Gibson's late wife, Pam, was battling breast cancer, he saw how she fought for each moment. How she worked to buy time and to squeeze every last drop of joy from her life. And in the end, those precious moments paid off. Tim now believes in the sanctity of the moment.

Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: carpe diem
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As I write this, barely a month has gone by since my wife passed away. A four-year battle with breast cancer brought her young life to a close, just one week after her fiftieth birthday.

Pam endured scores of chemotherapy treatments. Over a hundred radiation treatments. A dozen surgeries. When it appeared that nothing was working, when the cancer kept spreading, she kept trying. To so many, it must have seemed like a torturous exercise in futility. Why not just give it up? Why not stop struggling? It’s because of what Pam believed and what she taught me to believe in: the sanctity of the moment—the belief that every single moment of every life matters, and that they are all worth fighting for.

Think about the way life is—you and I and every other living thing on earth can measure our lives in moments. Life is linear. We string together all of our moments, like pearls in a strand. Each one relies upon those before it and carries us to those which follow. So, even our seemingly wasted moments have value. They might connect us to the moment when we have a wonderful idea. They might link you to the moment when you will make a difference in someone else’s life, or change your own. Each of those tiny divisions is an opportunity. Each moment counts. Each moment grows from those that came before it and impacts those which follow.

At a point, Pam knew that she couldn’t beat the cancer. But to her, the moments she gained through those difficult treatments were adding up and adding time to her life. Each moment she earned with treatment could mean another chance to see our daughter sing in a chorus concert. One more evening, sitting on the deck with her friends. Another talk with a loved one. A last chance to finish a book or listen to the music she loved. We’re not talking about using her final days to change the world. It’s about trying to pack a few more wonderful moments into her life and into the lives of the people around her. It’s believing that each moment in life counts.

Ask yourself, which moment of yours is not important? Which is not worth living? Which one has no value to you, or to any other person? If you still feel moments are too small to matter, I’ll share one more argument. Even after her prognosis became certain, Pam continued fighting for time, accumulating the extra moments she was earning through her struggle. Banking them. Adding pearls to her life strand. And, on the last morning of her life, two of Pam’s sisters arrived at her bedside, just moments before she died. Just in time to see her and hold her in her last moment of life. It’s impossible to say where in her four-year battle she earned those few extra moments. But, who would argue that they weren’t important?

Tim Gibson lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is remarried, with a daughter and two stepchildren. He also wrote the short story, The Crying Place, which appears in the book, I Thought My Father Was God: And Other True Tales from NPR's National Story Project.

Recorded by WVXU in Cincinnati, Ohio and produced for This I Believe, Inc. by Dan Gediman