Life is short. It is brief. One day we are here and the next day we could be gone. In the grand scheme of things we really don’t have much time on earth. Billy Graham said, “The greatest surprise in life is the brevity of life.”
The recent passing of three friends reminded me again about the fact that life is short and that we need to live every minute of it. Whether we are young, middle age, unemployed, in poor health, retired or in good health living on a mountain top in Colorado, we need to do our best to take advantage of every fleeting moment. Life is just a breath. We get one chance to take it and then it is gone.
Many of you know the three people who I have had the honor to call friends: Alice Lindgren, John Fisher and Jane Smith. I was going to talk about each of them individually but collectively they have a lot in common.
All three were humble people. Considering what they accomplished in life, they had a right to be proud but they didn’t let pride get in the way of just being themselves. Each of them were hall of fame type individuals.
They deeply cared about others and were always willing to lend a helping hand. They valued relationships. They went out of their way to help their neighbors, which included anyone who needed help.
They were intelligent people who valued education. They could talk to you about any topic, show a genuine interest in it and you. They were people of high integrity whose faith guided their way.
Because I knew each of them personally, their passing hit close to home. It gave me reason to ponder life like we all do when someone we know well leaves us. “What are the things I cherish now that I would dearly miss?” You might ask yourself the same question.
I was sitting in my office this past Sunday while the wind was blowing the last of the remaining leaves off the trees. As I looked out the window to see my granddaughter playing in the leaves with her dad, I asked myself, “Why aren’t I out there?” So, I went and joined them. If I were gone, I would miss those opportunities when I could be with our granddaughter and our children.
As a screensaver on my computer I have a picture of my wife waving to me. She has a special twinkle in her eye that always captivates my attention. There is a unique bond between husband and wife that is the heart of any relationship. This bond is driven by the little things that are the glue that holds it together. It may be a certain touch. It may be something special one says or does. Or, it may be a smile. Whatever it might be, it would be missed.
I often take our two dogs, Simon and Simone, accompanied by little Sissie, our new addition, to an adjacent hill that overlooks Lake Julia. I have an old wooden folding chair I sit on to rest my bones while the dogs explore anything and everything. I look out over the lake and say to myself, “I have to be the luckiest person alive.” I might see a boat speeding off to a favorite fishing hole or a few wood ducks looking for shelter among the wooded shoreline or even an osprey taking a daredevil dive into the water. I just sit back and take it all in as if it were a movie.
Occasionally I will walk along our shore and stand quietly among the cattails or tall grass and think about the many times when I was duck hunting with my brother and father. I just stand and recall the moment and smell the slough grass. I always regretted when it was time to pack up our gear and head home. It didn’t matter if we saw ducks or shot ducks, just that short time on the shore was all the reward I needed. It’s these memories that helps me cherish the short time we have on earth.
It’s a snowy day. There is a fire going in the fire place. Kathy is doing her crossword puzzle at the dining room table. The dogs are curled up on the rug taking their afternoon siesta. I am reading a Vince Flynn or John Grisham novel. It’s cozy inside. I am thinking that it’s about time to shovel some snow, take the dogs for a walk or get in some firewood. Then I come to my senses and stay in the chair. Life can’t get much better than this.
Like many of you we have certain decorations that we get out for the holidays: Thanksgiving, Easter, Halloween or Christmas. It takes me a few hours, sometimes days, to find where I put the boxes. I finally find them and bring them to Kathy to display. It seems like just a little thing but I always appreciate her attention to detail and making little things seem like big things like having just the right size and shape of a Christmas tree. I hope to keep cherishing those moments for many more years.
I especially enjoy talking to educators about how we can change our schools to help bring success to all students. My father once said that when he is around educators the only thing they talk about is teaching. For the most part he is right and that’s another item I would list under things I would miss the most.
If you were to take your last breath, heaven forbid, what would you miss the most? Would you miss talking to your kids about how they are doing? Would you miss traveling? Would you miss eating out or camping out or just going out to have a good time? All of these I would miss and this is why we need to make every moment count because we can never get them back again.
I will miss Alice, John and Jane, as we all will. They were good people who did many fine things all of which we can learn from. I am sure when they went through the pearly gates they were greeted with a hug followed by, “Welcome, my good and faithful servant.”
Riddle: Where do you find polar bears? (Answer: It depends on where you leave them.) I cherish these times that I have to share with you some dumb and, sometimes, funny riddles.
We need to take advantage of every moment to help 100% of our students find success in school. It all begins and ends with you and me. What can you do today?
John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.