Friday, September 30, 2011

My (New & Improved) "To Do" List

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,
to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, 
and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."
~ Henry David Thoreau ~

As I sat in a small group counseling session last night, I was reminded, once again, of how fragile life is -- how quickly any one of us can be gone.  So, today I am giving a lot of thought to the briefness of my time here and how important it is for me to make the best of what I have, rather than focus on what I don't have.
This has been brought to my attention several times recently, and I wonder if there isn't some reason I need to take the time to reflect on it......

Last April, I learned of the sudden death of a woman I had briefly known.  She was a mother of two children (11 & 14).  For a short period of time, she was my hairdresser.  From what I have learned, she was awakened one morning by a heart attack.  Her husband was already gone for work.  Her children did what they could (I can only imagine their terror).  She did not survive.  She was 47 years old -- alive one day, gone the next with no warning.  Now every time I drive by  her house I am reminded.

Over the summer a beloved teacher and outstanding coach in our community passed away after a long battle with cancer.  I did not personally know him but many in our community knew and loved him.  They are still mourning his loss and some are hoping to name the high school gym in his honor.  He had a wife and young children.  He was 39 years old.  That's the same age as me.

I don't think any American escaped the media attention given to the 10th anniversary of 9/11.  As tragic as those events were, I feel that, for me, being reminded helps me to regain focus on what is important.  Every time I am reminded of that day, I think to myself:  How many of those people that died said a proper "good-bye" to their loved ones before heading out the door that morning?  What might they have done differently, had they known it would be the last time?

A massage therapist in our town passed away rather suddenly.  I had seen her on three different occasions for massage appointments over the past couple of years.  She was a single mother with a young boy (elementary school age).  I saw her in the spring -- we were both at a children's museum in the area.  We just briefly said hello.  She seemed vibrant and well at that time.  Earlier this week, I learned that she passed away last Saturday.  She had cancer.  She, too, was 39 years old.

Last night, I was sitting in a small group counseling session.  One of the women began to share some of her "story."  As I listened, I was amazed to learn all that she has been through in a very short period of time -- the latest being a battery of medical exams, tests, and procedures which determined that her body is basically a cancer ticking time bomb.  There are cancer cells in her blood -- just traveling around in her system while she waits to see what they will do.  They may do nothing.  They may attack at any moment.  She has recently been through a divorce and has three children -- a 20 year old and twin 17 year olds.  They do not know what lies ahead for them.  She needs to have more tests and wait.  She is an elementary school nurse.

These are just some of the more recent examples that have been drawn to my attention.  I'm sure there will be more.  What do any of us really know about when it will be our turn -- whether it will come as a long illness or a sudden tragedy or whether we will live long into old age?  I guess the most important thing is to make sure we do things each day that will help us to feel at peace when it is our turn to leave this life we know.  In light of this, I have decided to make a "new and improved" To Do list.

Here is my new daily "TO DO" List:
  • I will give thanks for my health.  I will do my best to maintain it by eating properly and getting regular exercise.
  • I will give thanks for the health of my family -- especially my husband and children.
  • I will end each day in a positive way -- especially in my interactions with my husband and children.
  • I will say a proper "good-bye" to my loved ones each time we part because it is impossible to know when it may be for the last time.

And here is a little "extra credit" project I have assigned myself:
  • I will write "Thank You" letters to my immediate family (and some close friends) telling them all of things I am grateful for that they have done for and/or with me over the years.  

The holidays are coming.  These letters could make nice gifts for everyone on my list.  Now all I have to do is write them.....

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