May 11, 2018 12:00 a.m.
A good friend had a close family member pass away unexpectedly last weekend. The loss was stunning because of all of the future plans previously being set in motion are now forever disrupted. Family and friends will never have another chance to visit. In today’s environment, both professionally and personally, we often miss those moments.
Lisa’s father, Bob, was a great community leader. A former school administrator, he donated money (substantial) and time (more substantial) to acquire a key piece of land to add to a local park in Michigan. He was also an avid baseball fan.
While we were living in Connecticut, we planned an outing to Yankee Stadium (sadly, not the original) to watch his beloved Detroit Tigers tangle with the hated Yankees. A few weeks before the scheduled trip, some health issues arose and the visit to Connecticut and New York didn’t happen. The issue wasn’t necessarily debilitating, but the thought was, “We’ll come later.” Bob never returned to Connecticut, passing away the following summer.
Shortly after relocating to Fernandina Beach, my father developed health issues. All of the prognoses were positive- after some routine treatments, his health would be stabilized and he would return to his normal lifestyle (although the ravages of age were otherwise affecting him as well). My parents would visit our wonderful new community after his treatments. “We’ll come later.”
Five months later I was away at a training conference when I got an early morning call from my mother that Dad had passed away. He never got to see Fernandina Beach. “Later” never came.
We get consumed by life rather than consuming life. Life can end in a slow inexorable otherwise nature journey that can be somewhat managed or it can end with stunning unexpectedness. In either case, “later” will never come.
We likely all have family and friends that complain that we live too far away to visit, so they don’t. I also know, however, that we also have family and friends mere miles away that we rarely visit. Distance is an easy crutch.
Modern communication, while instantaneous, has become increasingly impersonal. We “talk” to family and friends through social media and text messages. It is so much simpler. I joke with my daughters that I at least know my “friends” on Facebook- they were friends long before the meaning was usurped. Our family phone plan recorded approximately 7,700 text messages last month. One of my daughters attributed for nearly 5,500 of those messages, explaining, “Dad, that’s how I talk to my friends.”
I have always contended that the most ordinary symbol that illustrates that we are by nature a trusting species is the simple four-inch wide, fractions-of-an-inch high yellow stripe in the middle of a road. We simply assume that that massive impenetrable barrier will always protect us from oncoming traffic.
Tens of thousands are killed every year in motor vehicle accidents, many of which are through no fault of the victims. We get in the car to drive to work or to the grocery store or to visit, and something goes wrong. Studies indicate that these “routine” trips are now more dangerous because of distracted driving. Don’t take these little drives for granted any more- “later” may never come. Stories with these tragic endings roil our community much too frequently.
Consume life with your family and friends. Several years ago I had an employee whose home life was struggling because of external pressures she felt at work: she was constantly and mercilessly chided, ridiculed, and belittled by several members of the community. The harassment was completely unwarranted and I couldn’t shield her enough. I told her that while I would no doubt be able to find a replacement for her at work, no one could replace her as a wife and mother at home, so I encouraged her to find a different and better work environment.
This is Mother’s Day weekend. While Mom should receive the appropriate amount of attention, take the time to reflect on all of your family and friend relationships. Make the time to visit or talk (real talk)- schedule those conversations as you would a business meeting to make them happen. The likelihood of convenient gatherings is unlikely- we are consumed by life.
Make “later” happen. Make “later” now.
Happy Mother’s Day.