Monday, August 4, 2008

The Gift of Now

In “Journey to Ixtlan", Carlos Castaneda writes about the Angel of Death as being always present near one’s left shoulder. If one turns fast enough, Castaneda writes, it is possible to catch a glimpse of the Angel, and remember to live every moment fully because it could be our last.
This past week, my friend Connie had a chance to come face to face with her own mortality. After becoming very ill because of an untreated kidney infection, she was taken to the hospital, and immediately admitted. For a few days, her doctors struggled to keep the infection under control, and her condition seemed to deteriorate by the minute.
Saying that Connie was terrified is a serious understatement. She knew her body was shutting down, and everything she had taken for granted was quickly spiraling out of control. Connie thought she was going to die.
When I spoke with her, the first words out of her mouth were about her children. She was afraid of how they would cope if something happened to her, and also realized how much she missed simply having them around. She talked of the times she got angry with them over trivial things, when she could have instead told them how much she loved them.
Having three children myself, I totally understand the frustrations of parenting. Yet, Connie’s ordeal seriously made me think.
What if something was to happen to me, and I wasn’t able to connect to all the people I love or respect before leaving this earthly plane? Would they know how much I care about them? If I was to die tomorrow, would it really matter that my three-year-old daughter flooded the bathroom today, or that my husband didn’t throw his dirty socks in the hamper this morning?
We spend such a large portion of our lives worrying about things that don’t matter, that we lose focus of what is truly important. We hold grudges against people we love over unimportant matters, and never think that we may not have another chance to make amends.
After talking to Connie, I thought about my own family, my children, my parents who live far away. I realized that many times I hang up the phone without telling my husband that I love him, I choose housework over going to the park with my children, I forget to call my parents and friends because I am too busy. I never think that those simple actions could be the last chance I have to let them know how I feel. If something suddenly happened to me – or them – those perfect opportunities would be lost forever.
We are programmed to allow life's circumstances to take over, to focus on making the next dollar as if it is the last chance we have to become rich, and we forget that it is up to us to appreciate each moment and the subtle blessings that surround us at all times. The dishes will still be there the next day, and the paperwork will be waiting for us when we get back, but will our loved ones be there tomorrow? Or even later today?
Each moment of our lives that is not fully appreciated is a moment we have wasted; it's a gift we have not accepted; it's an opportunity that may be lost forever.

1 comment:

Elaine Luddy Klonicki said...

Thanks for refocusing us today on the important things in life. I hope Connie is going to be okay.