Thursday, October 06, 2005

A Story to Live By

My brother-in-law opened the bottom drawer of my sister's bureau andlifted out a tissue-wrapped package. "This," he said, "is not a slip.This is lingerie." He discarded the tissue and handed me the slip. Itwas exquisite; silk, handmade and trimmed with a cobweb of lace. Theprice tag with an astronomical figure on it was still attached. "Janbought this the first time we went to New York, at least 8 or 9 yearsago. She never wore it. She was saving it for a special occasion. Well,I guess this is the occasion." He took the slip from me and put it onthe bed with the other clothes we were taking to the mortician. His hands lingered on the soft material for a moment, then he slammed thedrawer shut and turned to me. "Don't ever save anything for a specialoccasion. Every day you're alive is a special occasion."I remembered those words through the funeral and the days thatfollowed when I helped him and my niece attend to all the sad choresthat follow an unexpected death. I thought about them on the planereturning to California from the Midwestern town where my sister'sfamily lives. I thought about all the things that she hadn't seen orheard or done. I thought about the things that she had done withoutrealizing that they were special. I'm still thinking about his words,and they've changed my life.I'm reading more and dusting less. I'm sitting on the deck and admiringthe view without fussing about the weeds in the garden.I'm spending more time with my family and friends and less time incommittee meetings. Whenever possible, life should be a pattern ofexperience to savor, not endure. I'm trying to recognize these momentsnow and cherish them.I'm not "saving" anything; we use our good china and crystal for everyspecial event-such as losing a pound, getting the sink unstopped, thefirst camellia blossom.I wear my good blazer to the market if I feel like it. My theory is ifI look prosperous, I can shell out $28.49 for one small bag ofgroceries without wincing.I'm not saving my good perfume for special parties; clerks in hardwarestores and tellers in banks have noses that function as well as myparty-going friends'."Someday" and "one of these days" are losing their grip on myvocabulary. If it's worth seeing or hearing or doing, I want to see andhear and do it now. I'm not sure what my sister would have done hadshe known that she wouldn't be here for the tomorrow we all take forgranted.It's those little things left undone that would make me angry if I knewthat my hours were limited. Angry because I put off seeing good friendswhom I was going to get in touch with-someday. Angry because I hadn'twritten certain letters that I intended to write-one of these days.Angry and sorry that I didn't tell my husband and daughter often enoughhow much I truly love them.I'm trying very hard not to put off, hold back, or save anything thatwould add laughter and luster to our lives. And every morning when Iopen my eyes, I tell myself that it is special. Every day, everyminute, every breath truly is...a gift from God.
by Ann Wells in the Los Angeles Times
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