[Life is short, and we have only the time that we are given, nothing more. Never more. Remembering that in our brief lives each moment of joy will pass, like each moment of pain, is the story of ‘Part Two’, which I will be adding soon]
I can’t even begin to tell you how short your life is.
When I was in my teens, I came across a quote that used to make me giggle. I shared it like a joke with my friends and family. “Don’t tell me life is short. It’s the longest fucking thing you’ll ever do”. While I am still amused, I no longer believe it. I no longer have the ignorance and bliss that allows us, as innocent youth, to believe this: that what we have, that family, that love, that all those we hold dear, are forever.
Because really, isn’t that what we all thought? Wasn’t that exactly the falsehood that we believed so ferociously?
Until. Until we lost something irreplaceable. Until we were blindsided by sudden loss and the unbelievable heartbreak of really, truly, finally having to say goodbye.
Before Christmas I lost someone I love dearly. A few months before he passed, he took a trip down to Atlanta to say goodbye to his family there. When he got back home, he told me about how on every other trip he had always left by saying, Au revoir. This means, quite literally, ‘to the next seeing’. On this trip, however, he said Adieu. To god.
We don’t get a lot of time. Often we don’t even get the short amount that we assume we’ll get. Our bodies, these days, can last so much longer than any of our ancestors’. Most among us assume we’ll hit seventy, eighty, perhaps ninety. We have doubled, and more, our life expectancy. “It’s the longest thing you’ll ever fucking do“.
Expectancy. We expect to get the whole package. We expect.
And yet…and yet you could be dying as you read this, and not even know it. Inside of you could already be growing the cells that could turn into cancer. You could be deciding to take that job offer that could lead to getting into that taxi that could lead to being in that car crash.
We don’t get a lot of time.
This too shall pass.
Although you might now be wanting to turn away from the perception of morbidity you think I’m presenting you, I’m going to ask you to stay. Because rather than weeping over death, this is an affirmation of life. We don’t get a lot of time, so use it. USE IT. Hold on to your life with both hands; respect your body and care for it because it is keeping you alive. Did you hear me just then? Your body is keeping you alive, and it is fragile. Respect and care for it.
Those small moments of joy, whatever they are for you: revel in them. Grow. Gift the world with your joy and your accomplishments. Do what you know in your heart to be right. You are getting so much less time that you expect. Work hard to know what makes you happy; who is important; where you need to be. Your goodbyes are coming so much sooner than you believe. Rush into love, wherever you find it, in each and every one of its myriad of forms. When you find it, let it set you on fire. Blaze with it. This is not a dress rehearsal, and you will never, ever be here again. Be here now. Now is all you’re ever going to get.
And ask yourself:
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
(The Summer Day, by Mary Oliver)