Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend the Celebration of Life for a woman who has been like a second mom to me for over 30 years. Add to that her fantastic daughter who has been a BFF for the same amount of time and you’ll understand how important this family is to me. As I was walking out with a family member, I said, “You did great today.” The response was, “I could have done better.” We both knew they weren’t talking about just that day. It got me to thinking.
I know we all have heard the time old adage of making the most of time with people before that time is over. Cherish them. Love them. Smelling roses and all that crap. And I say all that crap with all due respect because who actually spends the time figuring out ways to make the most out of time until there is no more time? Or you get a wake up call in time so that you do make the most out of your time. I got that wake up call 24 years ago when I lost my dad and a part of me is really glad that I did. Why? I really appreciate time.
Now I’ll be honest and say that I was only 20 when my dad died so time still stretched out before me like a never ending string of gum that you try to pull off your shoe. It just seemed as though it would go on forever and why should I rush for anything? I had time before the string finally broke. And being 20 you are in the full throes of all about me so understanding the time issue is understandably tricky. Then I got married. Then I had kids. Then my mom got a little older. And then I turned 40. And all of a sudden I started losing people all over the place. Some with warning, some without but the end result was the same. Their time had run out.
But even during the hectic days of my 20’s I would stop for a beautiful sunset. I would stop and sit by the lake and watch the birds and clouds. I would stop and notice a lovely tree or flower or whatever. I didn’t necessarily smell them but I paid attention and I took the time to notice. I left goofy messages for friends to say I was thinking about them and made sure to take my mom out on adventures. I’ve been silly with my kids. I’ve surprised my husband. And I still do all those things. Why? Because I know I only have so much gum to go and I want it to be thoroughly chewed up.
I think that’s part of the reason I took up photography. I realized that those moments were fleeting. I realized that with photography I could keep a part of that day or that scene or that memory alive with me forever. And I also knew at an early age how quickly and easily and unexpectedly those moments could be taken away from me. And I resolved early on that I would try to not only cherish the sun and the earth and all things bright and beautiful but my family and friends who make living worthwhile and to leave behind a record of our adventures so that they had something to remember our time by.
I don’t want to come to the end of someone’s life and ever think I could have done more. I don’t want to have regrets that I didn’t reach out and spend time for no other reason than I couldn’t be bothered or thought I had more time. I made that mistake recently with my Uncle Richard in England who died in April. We thought we had more time. We thought he was doing ok. I thought I’d have another chance. I don’t. It’s not completely my fault as he wouldn’t allow anyone to share how sick he actually was but still. I see now I could have done more and that feeling really bothers me.
So what’s my point? Remember that time is slippery not sticky. Remember that all strings will snap. We can’t avoid it. We can’t change it. But what we can do is make the most of the time we have. It doesn’t have to be complicated or grand. It can be as simple as sending a card in the mail. It can be as simple as having lunch together. It can be as simple as picking up the phone if only to leave a message of I love you and you are important to me. I’ve been known to sing a ditty or two on someone’s voice mail when duly inspired. I’ve been known to leave little gifts at doors just because it made me smile at the thought of the other person’s happiness. Those things take time and that time counts. Because in the end, we all run out of time. It’s what we do to make it great while we’re here that matters.