I am like so many others that give lip service to the phrase, “Life is short, so make the most of it.” I’ve never been really sure what that phrase actually means. It’s true that life can end without warning, or can be drawn out in an elaborate medical drama that begs for a happy ending that never comes. It’s the “…make the most of it” part that is elusive.
In January of 1996 my Grandma Jo passed away. She lived a long and amazing life by my standard. Over the previous 25 years she’d fought and beat back cancer on three occasions, out living two doctors that gave her little hope of surviving the omens of death. Grandma Jo was, for me at least, a model of perseverance and grace along her path, the true embodiment of living in the moment.
When my mother moved us four kids to Eatonville Washington on the last day of August 31 1970, Grandma Jo took the day off of attending church to pick us up. Other than a brief meeting some seven years earlier, we did not know her, this was as much an adventure as it was a mystery for all of us.
The day after arriving she took off from her job as the town Librarian to enroll us in the local schools. I remember feeling like a bit of a celebrity in town, each time I mentioned her name, even among kids in my class, many knew her and would smile. She had a gift of observing the behaviors of the kids in the library and figuring out what they would truly enjoy reading. I was astounded at how she zeroed in on my fascination with the Indians of North America. The first complete book I ever read was about Chief Blackhawk, a book tossed into my hands by Grandma Jo one rainy afternoon while I visited her at work. What a moment that was!
In Grandma’s last months on earth I spent a few days each week at her home in Eatonville some 40 miles away, only my mother was with her more in her final winter of life. Once she was gone, more would be lost of what she knew than would remain I feared. I wanted to persevere to the end with her, live in the moments that I knew would soon be gone.
This week I was confronted by two events with lessons to be harvested.
First, my ex-wife’s father in-law (her new husband’s father) passed away. My son has spent many holidays with his step-grandparents, this week my son had to deal with the death of someone he knew and loved for the very first time. I’m thankful that he was with me when the phone call came, at just 12 years of age he wasn’t sure what was expected of him in the way of outward emotion. This feeling of confusion was no stranger to me as I lost my own father when I was just nine years old. His mother wasn’t present to see his reaction, she must have felt awful about it too. After the phone call Chris came to me and said his stomach was upset. Sometimes a hug is better than words.
Next, a Canadian friend of mine was in a head on collision this week. Her daughter contacted me with the news, I was stunned. Less than a month ago she was supposed to accompany me to my high school reunion, canceling shortly before. Her daughter sent pictures of the car. How could anyone have survived such an ordeal? But survive she did. A few days in the hospital, then off to her daughter’s to recover. It could have been her curtain call, instead she was delivered to an encore, saving her granddaughter from my son’s fate.
“Life is short…”
In one week four of life’s dramas played out, one life ends while another is delivered to the stage again. One son faces the finality of death for the first time while his father is helpless to save him from it.
“…make the most of it”
Making the most of our lives is what we actually do each day, persevere through the bad times, and revel in the good. You can’t stop the next moment from playing out as scripted, for some it’s a final curtain call, for others it’s an encore. If you’ve been given an encore on life’s stage then hand out books, spend time with people that count, kiss your parents, hug your kids, live a dramatic life and end it all with no regrets.
Thanks for reading this far.