“Look, I know you don’t want to hear this, but if anything should happen to me…” He pauses, takes a breath.
Heart stuttering, I rush to interrupt.
“Stop. Just – stop. Nothing’s going to happen to you–”
Ignoring me, he plows on. “Talk to Chris, he can give you the password you need – everything’s on there.”
My husband and I were on our way to Abbott Northwestern Hospital for surgery, and though I focused on accelerating and decelerating the car, changing lanes, flipping blinkers and switches – for just a moment, I felt immobilized by fear. I allowed myself to think about what a phone call like that to our financial adviser would mean. Overwhelmed, I quickly pushed it aside.
In the final moments that day before the nurses wheeled him away, I swallowed back a few tears as I squeezed his hand, smoothed my fingers over the back of his, and said the important things: I love you. You’re gonna be ok. I’ll see you in a little while. Even though I fully believed that his surgery would have a positive outcome, it’s never guaranteed — and I don’t want to have any regrets, if I can help it.
This weekend, a neighbor mentioned a Facebook posting in which the author talked about savoring “lasts.” If you knew it was going to be the last time you tied your child’s shoe, or gave them a bath, or fed them baby food, would you savor it more?
I want to savor this life.
In 2005, my sister’s cancer diagnosis had taken a turn for the worse. She’d been in the hospital for increasing lengths of time; her respites at home seemed few and far between. I visited her often but not every day. She had such a vibrant personality that I could not imagine a reality in which she was no longer present. Instead, I spent lots of time at my boyfriend’s apartment, pretending life was normal and that she could keep the cancer at bay.
One visit in particular stands out to me. It was a Thursday night. I’d come to see her straight from work, and it was my birthday the next day. We talked about hoping that she’d get out of the hospital soon and scrapbooking together, and I told her that I’d get the supplies we needed.
Do you know what I remember most about that conversation? Feeling impatient. Oh, I tried not to let it show, but I had other things to do. I was 22, I was a college graduate, I was job hunting. I was busy.
My parents called to tell me she was dying just two days later. By the time I got to the hospital to see her, she was sedated enough that she was no longer speaking.
If I had known that the conversation with my sister on a Thursday night would be the last one I’d ever have with her, would I have savored it more?
These days, I’m once again in the midst of everyday life. I’m a busy mom of three who is also trying to write, and have friends, and reduce my house to an acceptable level of clutter. But I’m trying not to forget that hard-earned lesson from 10 years ago. So in the wee hours of the night when the baby wakes up to nurse, I try not to begrudge the sleep I’m losing. When my children’s bedtime antics drive me to what feels like the brink of sanity, I try to hold on to my patience. When my husband and I have a disagreement, I try to resolve it with no hard feelings.
Because this life is fleeting, and I want to wring every single drop of love and hope and life from it that I possibly can. I want to savor lasts, and firsts, and in-betweens. And I never want to regret, come Saturday morning, those Thursday night conversations.