Happy the man.
Happy the man, and happy he alone,
He who can call today his own;
He who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.
Be fair or foul or rain or shine
The joys I have possessed, in spite of fate, are mine.
Not Heaven itself upon the past has power,
But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour.
This poem features in the very beginning of the book, “Until I Say Good-Bye”, written by Susan Spencer – Wendel.
This is for the second time that I am reading this book, and for the second time that I feel I am not doing justice to every breath I take. Cryptic, eh? You shall see.
The writer, Susan Spencer – Wendel, was detected with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is an irreversible condition that destroys the nerves that power the muscles. She was only 44 when she learned about the disease. 44, with three children and only one year left to live.
After doing several rounds of doctors and clinics and therapies, she decided she did not want to spend the remaining time of her life playing the role of a lab rat. The disease, she learnt, had no cure , so what was the point in running from pillar to post, trying to find solutions? She also did not want to bankrupt her family – the doctors and clinics cost money…a lot of it, and they wouldn’t even be finding a cure! So, she decided she would spend her time – about an year – in the company of her closest people.
She would go on vacations with each of her children, go shopping for wedding gowns with her daughter for the wedding she wouldn’t be present for. She would call her best friends, and her family over to her house, and they would chat, and laugh and create memories – memories for them, that they would treasure for the rest of their lives. In short, she decided she would live every moment, be alive in every moment, be aware of every breath that she now had left.
And, this is the reason I said earlier, that I do not think I am doing justice to every breath I take. Aren’t we all guilty of doing it? At least, the majority of us, who haven’t realised the greatest fact of life, that one day, when we are rushing from one goal to another, trying to reach our destinations (wonder what these are), life will be sucked out of us,and in a fraction of a second it will be over.
We plan on doing things tomorrow, the next week or the next month; we plan on spending time with our dear ones “over the weekends”, fulfil that childhood dream “after we retire”, but seldom do we give it a thought that the next week, next month or the retirement age might not even come into our lives; we might not even be here when “that perfect moment” blesses us with its presence!
We are so involved in cramming a hundred things in this moment, that we fail to realise that the people for whom we toil day and night have been left far behind. We rarely give them the time of the day, or even a simple look of love and admiration. Our time, which rightfully belongs to the ones who make up our world, gets squandered away on things we would never even glance at were we to know how precious every minute was! Sadly, almost always, realisation dawns when time is nearing the end; when a loved one is at the brink of death, waiting to cross over to the other realm.
Carpe diem is the word, isn’t it? Being aware of each and every breath we take, in each and every moment we live – that is what we fail to do. Are we there when our kids excitedly tell us about what happened at school? Are we there when our spouses express their ardent wish of spending some time with us? Are we there when we stand under the night sky, gazing at the million twinkling stars? Hardly. Hardly ever. Our bodies are very much there, but our minds, our hearts are elsewhere – preparing for things we plan on doing tomorrow, the day after, the next week or the next month.
It’s time we left the future where it belongs. It’s time we left the next moment where it belongs, it’s time we learnt to live in the here and now, aware of every breath we take, aware of every word we utter, aware of every moment we are here. It’s a gift we are blessed to have – this moment. Let’s not fritter it away.