When we arrived, we knew it was bad. We had rented a cabin site unseen (before the days of the internet) upon the glowing recommendation of the owner. The water was pungent and yellow, the cleanliness was questionable and the furniture falling apart. But we gathered as a family around the tree we had hauled up with us. Mother and father, sister and brothers and in-laws, nine of us, and as the new year turned over we went through the following exercise.
Each person was given the task of writing down on a slip of paper the gifts and talents of the family member next to them. A father wrote about his son, sharing with everyone things the son had never heard from his father. A sister shared about her brother, sister-in-law about sister-in-law….and what started as a simple exercise turned into an emotional experience of connection.
Today, two of those family members are gone. A brother lost to cancer at 40, a father to kidney failure. How important those words are now.
The family gathered again this past weekend, this time in the mountains. We laughed about our unfortunate accommodations 13 years ago, but remembered what a powerful moment that was for each of us and how we were so glad we had been deliberate about expressing our thanks and love for each other. Without that planned exercise, we wouldn’t have had that time or the words from those we deeply miss today.
You never get it back. That’s what I was thinking as we drove home today.
There is no second chance, no “later” or next year. All you have is right now. We need to treasure those we care about, gift them with our time, our words and our presence. This is my personal challenge, and I share it with you.
Give the gift of time. Time is extremely precious to each of us. There is only so much of it in a day and our day is full before we even start. For many people it is often easier to give money than time. Set aside time for those you care about. Be deliberate about it. Pencil it in.
Give the gift of words. It is so rare that we tell someone why we appreciate them. We sign a card with our name but neglect to write in our own hand a few lines about why that person is important to us. We say “I love you” but forget to tell that person what it is about them that we love. Write it down. The words are precious and one day may be even more so.
Give the gift of presence. Sometimes all another person needs is for you to be there. Not to say anything, just be present. Human contact and connection. Relationship and link.
Take the time, be deliberate. All you have is today…and you never get it back.