Countless times I’ve propped my leg on a certain bench in Wade Park, Wilmington. I’ll lean over, straighten my leg, and stretch my hamstring muscles that have become tighter with years. The bench is mounted in concrete and serves as a memorial to a beloved mom and wife who lost her life to cancer.
I remember the woman well since our sons attended pre-school together. She was one of those moms who always went the extra mile and volunteered to help in class whenever there was a need. She had the coolest toys at home and our son, John enjoyed getting to play with her son.
Once, when our kids were in elementary school, she called me to inquire about videos of pre-school programs. She’d organized their recordings and couldn’t find videos for some programs. I was no help; we didn’t even own a video camera. I was impressed that she’d documented much of her family’s life. It was easy to see how devoted she was to her children and husband.
I was surprised and saddened when I heard she’d passed away. She wouldn’t get to see those kids grow up and have their own families and she wouldn’t know her grandchildren.
I’ve thought of her often when walking by her bench. I’ve wondered, if we could chat, what she’d say to me today. Would she remind me to focus on what matters most? Would she wave her hand dismissively and tell me to not worry about wrinkles? She didn’t have time to develop them. She’d probably remind me to be myself and to quit worrying about what others think. Maybe she’d say to be glad for the signs of maturity because they mean I’m still alive. What a waste of time to worry about anything; our homes, our jobs, our family. I think she’d tell me to live in the present moment. Don’t waste precious time on things I can’t control or on things that don’t really matter.
At times I wish I could take an eraser to my mind and remove the negative thoughts. In the mind is where the biggest battle of all resides. The answer is to crowd out the negative thoughts with gratitude. To praise God and thank him for my life and his faithfulness to me.
We had another friend who also died too young. Our boys played on the same soccer team. After he was diagnosed with a terminal illness he noted that when he walked across the street with the sun bearing down, his senses were heightened to enjoy each aspect of the moment. The beauty of the day, the sun’s warmth, the ability to walk independently. It all felt like a miracle, he said.
I want my senses to be heightened now, rather than when I’m close to death, to take in the beauty and majesty of life. I want to cast off the unessential stuff and cherish each moment.
“To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything He has given us- and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His Love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense grace from Him. Gratitude, therefore, takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experiences. And that is what makes all the difference.”