Last Saturday night at the symphony, my mom and I stood together during intermission to stretch our legs.
There in the muted light of the golden hall, she spoke the most memorable notes of the night.
“It’s so true what they always say,” she confirmed unprompted. “Life really is so short.”
At 5’ 7” and 92 pounds, my sweet mama has a unique perspective on the subject. She is in the final stages of terminal cancer and the disease is “doing what is does best,” as she says—slowly robbing the body of life.
There was a stillness and reverence to her words. After so many months of living with her prognosis, she’s had time to reflect on life’s brevity.
As we stood there amidst the buzz of chatter and laughter, she continued.
“When I think back on my childhood and youth, followed by those young married years and motherhood and then retirement with all of you gone, it all passed so quickly.” She moved her hand in a short arc as she spoke, emphasizing the swiftness of time.
I took the gentle invitation to ask the question already hanging in the air.
“Would you have done anything differently?”
“I would have made more mud pies,” she smiled. “I would have spent more time with all of you outside riding bikes, flying kites, pushing you on the swings, taking walks, going on adventures.
“I’m glad we always had a clean house, but I would have focused less on the daily chores. Those young years go so quickly and then they’re gone. I would have spent more time with you then.”
As the child in this relationship, I have nothing but fond memories of growing up in our home with dinners together every evening and stories before bedtime. There were plenty of long road trips and family baseball games and cozy nights watching movies.
I never felt a lack of attention, so her reflection was a bit of a surprise.
Still, it was a welcome lesson. Such reflections, with the weight of perspective behind them, often are.
It was a lesson in taking advantage of what is before us in the moment.
To always do more of what brings joy. To constantly evaluate priorities. To remember that each moment is fleeting and it's up to us how we choose to catch it.
It wasn’t a great career she regretted not having, or a bigger house, or a more stamped up passport.
It was more time with people who were already there.
This lesson is not new, I know. You’ve read it before and you’ll hear it again.
Still, it seems important to put it out there just one more time, to share the words from just one more expert witness.