We all know that our time here on this earth is limited. And even more present to us is the knowledge that the time we have with those we love could be over at any minute. We know this. It is not new information. However, when we are stuck in the small (and big) stresses, pain and frustrations of life, it is easy to forget the value of the precious moment we are living. I am blessed to be with a man who reminds me of this often, but even we can find our noses stuck in a problem and forget the gift we have just to still be breathing. The simple pleasures we enjoy, like watering the plants, are lost in the stress of the fact that we are late running out the door to go to work. Or maybe I forget to value how beautiful my fiance’s smile is because I am annoyed at the fact that he forgot to buy eggs on his trip to the grocery store when that was the first thing I put on his list. Most of these small moments take a very special perspective to fully appreciate. And it is precisely that perspective that we forget to focus on.
There are moments however that snap us right back into reality. The most life changing of these is when someone that you love passes away. Whether unexpected or expected, young or old, this experience will throw you into a whirlwind of emotions. These are the times that make you stop and think “why am I still here?” and “what I wouldn’t give for just one more chance to see her smile.” In these moments in the midst of the pain, immediately or not, you hold those you love closer to you because you know how your heart needs them. You think back on the moments you had with someone and see, finally, how precious every minute really was. In these moments we promise ourselves, “I will never again see life the same way. I will appreciate every second I have been given, because it could end at any time.” And we hold on to this for a while, until other things start to feel more and more important again. And just like humans, we begin to forget again.
Then there are other moments, losses which are not so personal, but still impact us in a very special way. For example, soon after graduating college, Joshua Hodges passed away. I had seen him around campus riding his unicycle (yes, he was just that cool), but I cannot pretend we were friends or even had spoken at any point. Truth be told, at the time I did not even know his name. Friends and I just referred to him as “that cool unicycle guy.” I do not know much about Joshua, but I always saw him smiling. But shortly after graduating from seminary with his Masters of Divinity at the age of 25 he washed up on a beach in Jamaica. No one seemed to know why or how he had died. But I remember reading that it had always been his dream to visit Jamaica, so that was the graduation present he gave to himself. I remember being overrun with the question, “If this were my last adventure, how much of what I have dreamed of doing have I actually lived?” And this eventually led me to, “Am I choosing valuable enough dreams?” We often study thinking in our future, our career, our ministry, etc. But if it ended now, did I do enough to impact the world as a student? I realized that I cannot wait until I am in my ideal situation because I start making my mark.
Now, in my opinion it is very important to remember all of these great life lessons in the day to day. It is important not to wait until someone in your life passes away before you stop and reevaluate how you are living or appreciate the simple joys of being alive. I have learned that life gives you these lessons not merely to learn once, but to remember forever. So here is my simple advice. If you find something that moves you to reach out and hug those around you, keep it near by. If there is a story that always makes you call up your mother to tell her how much you love her, read it often. I have had nightmares of my parents dying and it definitely makes me appreciate them when I wake up, usually in tears. I need to write those down so I do not forget how much I would be devastated if tomorrow they were not there.
Here are two small things I keep around to push me back into perspective from time to time. The first is fiction, a 2 minute clip from the Desperate Housewives series finale. But every single time I watch it, I am in tears. It reminds me of the beauty of every moment and how quickly it goes. And I promise, you do not have to be a DH fan to appreciate it: Wonderful Wonderful.
Another is the most heartbreaking facebook note I have ever read: Joy Whenever. It was written by a young, teenage girl in my hometown, Nicole Murray, just hours after both of her parents passed away in a car accident last winter. It is sad, but it is also the strongest, most hopeful, trusting, absolutely the most mature piece of literature I have ever read. Read through it once and try not to cry.
And above all, see the value of life and live it and love it while you can.