As the end of 2010 approaches, I’ve been thinking a lot about time. These thoughts, tumbling and rambling through my mind, consistently emerge as a wild crazy quilt of ideas instead of the tidily planned and knotted tapestry of logic I’d planned. I hope you’ll bear with me as you read them.
My mom turned eighty this year and mixed with the gratitude for having her with us for so long, there is the knowledge that now each day is a bonus. Of course, every day is a bonus for all of us, even if the hours are spent with those we don’t like. It’s a gift to be here at all.
In a month, I also will have a landmark birthday — you know, the kind that ends in an “O”? — and I’m determined to approach the event in a spirit of thankfulness. Like many people, I take much for granted, but recently, some things have happened to remind me that I have no right to do so.
As I write this, a dear friend is in the last stages of her fight with cancer, a fight she will probably lose. It hurts to write those words, as if by admitting the truth, I am somehow giving in to losing her. And how impossible it is to reconcile that idea with the vibrant, over-committed connector of people and ideas that she has always been.
A runner of marathons, P. was my cycling buddy — and I was always, always the one in back, pedaling, tortoise-like, up the hill where I’d find her waiting to tease me for being so slow. From P., I learned that seeing the humor in a situation can contribute as much to a desired result as any intellectual offering, a lesson that I recall again and again. I cannot believe that soon she may not be here, on Facebook, at the next library conference, or simply somewhere else.
During 2010, another friend lost her husband without warning, and throughout the holidays I’ve thought of her repeatedly, knowing she was spending them without him for the first time.
Two more friends finished grueling battles with cancer — one of them for the second time — and it seems they may have beaten the disease, at least for now. I rejoice for both, and for myself, because it means they will remain part of my life a while longer.
I cannot think of these friends and loved ones without remembering my mother-in-law. She died in 2003, and a few days ago, my daughter, S., told me she hardly remembers her “Nanny.” The admission brought fresh grief. To know my daughter has a void where there should be memories of a woman who loved her so much seems horribly unfair to both.
Because of this, I’m rediscovering both the finiteness of life and the fragility of that which it leaves behind. We’ve probably all heard the phrase, “We don’t remember days, we remember moments,” but how many of you know the rest of this Cesare Paves quote? I didn’t until a moment ago, but his words give hope that perhaps the things we forget are also important.
The complete quotation is: “We do not remember days, we remember moments. The richness of life lies in memories we have forgotten.”
I hope he’s right.
It seems to me that time isn’t of the essence, it is the essence — the essence of life, distilled from those moments we truly live.
My New Year’s wish for you is the same one I have for myself — that the next time we have the audacity to complain about not having enough time, we’ll remember how true those words are. That in the next year we will spend more of the moments and hours and days of our life in living and less in thinking about living. That we’ll quit procrastinating and act. Preferably with or for someone we love.
In this way, I wish us all a life that is rich in memories, both forgotten and remembered.