Love the family, it's all you really have
On most Saturday afternoons I am either working around my home, on a car, hiking and taking some photographs somewhere or maybe even working here at the paper. But this past Saturday I was in a different place.
I was sitting in my oldest sisters bedroom, watching her in the hospital bed my niece and brother-in-law brought in, as she drifted farther and farther away from me due to that insidious disease we know as cancer.
As of this writing on Sunday she is still alive, but none of us in the family expect her to last much longer.
Now neither I, nor especially her, are asking for your sympathy in all this. She has led an active, vibrant, albeit short life. But I think both of us would ask you to do one thing for yourself and for those you love.
Get to know them better, spend time with them and love them like there is no tomorrow, because there just might not be.
As I sat in her room alone, I looked around at what was there from her life. Some photos and books that showed a better and happier time adorned the pale walls as the afternoon sunlight filtered in from the west. Also there were the things from the end of her life. The pills and medicines. Emergency phone numbers for doctors and others scribbled on a piece of paper tacked to the wall filled a prominent place in the view.
I watched as she struggled to take breaths, her little heart fighting to make every beat count. I looked at and stroked her hair, once dark and thick, now very thin and gray. I listened as she would say things none of us could understand, yet I knew by her eyes and her reactions that she could tell when we were talking to her.
I could also hear the traffic on Interstate 80 coming through the open window of her room. It made me think that the world goes on and on, regardless of who lives and who dies.
But to us in that little house 25 blocks south of downtown Salt Lake, the world was taking a turning point we will never forget. In a short time, for the first time in 45 years, my brother-in-law will be single again, my niece and nephew will lose a mother they have always had, my near 92 year old father will be without his oldest child and I will be without one of my two sisters; the one who my mother told me held me tight in the car as the family brought their son and little brother home from Cottonwood Maternity Hospital in 1952.
It's hard to regret a good life, but if I could do something different I would have spent more time knowing her. Life is busy for everyone and we all get caught up in business, careers, recreation and just plain trying to keep things together. However, we often sacrifice the important things for the less significant. She left the house to get married when I was nine, so most my memories of her before that are vague. During my teens I saw her pretty often then came college and marriage and my own kids. I moved out of state and then back again, but not close enough to "just drop in."
However, I could have been a much better brother than I was and visit more often. It seems we all think that people we love will be around forever, but they won't. Worst of all, no matter the warning or the cause, death comes on so suddenly.
So hold onto those you love, honor them and bury the hatchet if you have disputes with them. See them often, hug them a lot and kiss them with loving passion.
That's because time is short no matter whether you are nine or 90, and it will flow away before you know it.