Today is the 15th anniversary of my father’s death. He had lived a good, long and full life. A hard life, to be sure. But I think he would have said his life was good. Despite living through the Depression and World War II, losing a wife and a child, and battling health problems, my dad refused to indulge in self-pity. He lived each day in the best way he knew how – supporting his family, working in his garden, and watching the Cubs (mostly) lose. He liked his cocktail before dinner and his cup of tea afterwards. He read and watched television and took us on outings in the family station wagon.
It is so easy in modern life to slip into discontent. We wonder what we are doing with our life. We grow bored and restless. We dwell on the could haves and should haves of our lives instead of living in the present moment. Last night I watched the season finale of an HBO show called “The Leftovers.” Based upon a novel by Tom Perotta, “The Leftovers” shows a world in which people have randomly disappeared, leaving holes in the lives of their families and friends. The show details the various ways people cope – or don’t cope – with the seemingly meaningless loss. Some find refuge in their faith. Some seek meaning in false messiahs. Others force the people to remember relentlessly that horrible day. The main character wrestles with himself and the terrible choices he has made in his life. The story is bleak. Yet in the final episode of the season, (Don’t worry – no spoilers!) there is a glimmer of hope.
There is a popular adage to live each day as if it were your last. I don’t find this particularly helpful or realistic. If it were truly my last day, I would just sit around and eat sweets, drink wine and play games or watch TV with my family. I certainly wouldn’t do laundry, cook or take care of any of the chores necessary for daily life. To me, the meaning of that popular Latin sentence, “Carpe diem,” is not to take for granted any of the big and little events in one’s life.
As I write this, a teenage girl with cancer lies in her bed. It’s unlikely that she will ever get to experience such things as driving a car, getting married, or holding her infant in her arms. Realizing that life is fleeting, I intend to spend this day with joy and purpose – to reach out to others, to be truly present with my loved ones, and to hold the conviction that it truly is a wonderful life.