Thursday, May 24, 2007

What Matters ...

Last night I went to a wake, today, the funeral. And so my brain is thinking the inevitable thoughts about what matters most.

So much of life is consumed by petty things, feuds that stretch on for years over the smallest infractions. We cross our arms firmly across our chests and refuse to be the party to set aside the anger. Or we attempt a gesture of reconciliation, only to have the olive branch swatted out of our hands.

And then I attend the events of the past two days and see people I haven't seen in nearly 20 years and my mind is focused on the tiniest moments, hugging a long-lost friend of the family and feeling that instant ease wash over me. It's not about saying the right thing, as there is no right thing to say. There is only honesty, a hug, a sympathtic smile, a few kind words: "Your boys are beautiful."

There is a connection to be found in the simplest gestures, reaching forward to hand a Kleenex to someone who is wiping away their tears. There is laughter in the end, a son thanking everyone for coming, reminding us that it's a family tradition that the bar bill exceeds the bill for the food.

And there is comfort in the words of the departed, spoken in his last days: "I've lived a good life. I've had such good conversations with my kids." And there is comfort in the stories from those who were with him, that even in hospice, he continued to make jokes.

Tomorrow, life resumes its normal pace, taking my finger off the Pause button of the last few days and pressing Play. Tomorrow there is work and phone calls and laundry and yard work.

And as the grief subsides, so it seems do the lessons. We go too long without calling a friend. We talk about plans but never make them. We think we have time.

And then we wake up and it's 20 years later and we wonder where the time has gone. And we realize that it's gone by in the blur of every day.

But really, what has us so busy? We can find time to make excuses or we can use that same time to pick up the phone or drop by or mail a card just to say "Hi."

Because sometimes, when we lose someone, we have time to say goodbye. But sometimes, we don't. And regret is always regrettable. And so much of what we regret is avoidable.

He was oh-so-handsome, this family friend. And he lived his life well and honorably. He was loving and kind. And he is missed, which is a simple - yet extraordinary - measure of a man.


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