Life

What If We Stopped Assuming There’s Always More Time?

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Have you ever considered how much faith you exert — even if you’re not a ‘person of faith’ — that there’s always more time waiting?

As years go, 2020 was not one of my favorites. 2021 was not much of an improvement, either. It ended on a particularly sour note with the death of a very close friend. She spent the last three years battling cancer. But things were looking up. The last round of scans indicated the fancy drug doctors prescribed was working quite well. There was going to be more time.

That changed early Monday morning. I don’t have all of the details and if I did, they wouldn’t be mine to provide.

Suffice it to say things took a sudden, unexpected turn. My best friend called me Monday to tell me his wife was gone.

I’ve known him for more than 30 years now. I’ve known her more than 25. They were college sweethearts who went their separate ways for a while but reunited.

A funny thing happens to many male friends when one of them gets married. The wife ends up taking the time away that the husband might spend with his friends. She didn’t do that. In fact, she made sure there was a place for me at their table. She made sure I stayed in both of their lives.

They named me the Godfather of their first-born son. Their second son’s middle name is Patrick. Either gesture alone would have been more of an honor than I ever could have deserved.

I became friends with her as well as with him. I could have deep conversations with her that did not require his presence. That’s not all that normal a scenario, either.

It was with these dear people that the term chosen family truly took on a deep meaning for me. It was because of these dear people that I understood the sentiment better than ever before.

There was supposed to be more time.

She received her diagnosis about three years ago. She was a fighter. A sweet, caring, practical, compassionate woman who stood by her principles and loved those in her circle fiercely. But definitely a fighter.

Her doctor was initially optimistic about a relatively new cancer drug that had shown remarkable results in some patients. Her case had all the makings for a similar success story. But it wasn’t to be…at least not with that particular miracle drug.

There was a Plan B. A different drug, the doctors told them, could also have a good shot because it was genetically engineered to fight her specific cancer’s DNA profile. Who knew they could even do such a thing?!

I saw PET scans before she went on the drug and after. The before picture showed dark spots throughout her bones. That was cancer. The after picture showed those spots gone. That was the drug doing what it was supposed to do.

They told me the doctor was so pleased by the amazing results that he said if this kind of progress continued for a few more checkups, they’d be able to start looking at a discussion on remission. That phrasing struck me as an amusingly-tentative way of sounding too eager too quickly.

But remission sounded so good. The drug was doing what it was designed to do. She was going to have more time.

We all bank on that…every day of our lives.

A friend calls you and invites you to lunch the next day. Your boss schedules a meeting for the following Monday morning. You call your car dealership to set up a drop-off time for your vehicle’s next oil change.

We do this type of thing all day long. We never think about it. It’s just too easy to assume that whatever we need to take care of, there’ll be plenty of time to do so later in the week.

In our hearts, and maybe even somewhere in the back of our minds, we are aware that there’s no guarantee of tomorrow. It becomes even less pleasant to ponder that we aren’t even guaranteed the next 15 minutes.

So we try not to think about it. Instead, we go right on with scheduling and planning, as if we’re going to be here for decades to come. A problem comes up, we tell ourselves we’ll worry about that later. Since moving into my new place last year, I’ve adopted a line I use from time to time about things I want to do in terms of improvements.

“Oh, that’ll be a 2022 project,” I’ll say. There are one or two things I’ve already told myself I’ll get around to in 2024.

Because, you know, there’ll surely be more time.

I think that’s what we’re supposed to do.

If we were any more aware of our mortality, maybe we’d carefully cherish each new moment a bit more…for a while. But that kind of cherishing would become old and tedious far too quickly, I fear.

So we allow ourselves to mostly forget about mortality in our day-to-day lives.

Then, when we lose someone we love, it all comes flooding back. We remember what we probably shouldn’t have, but probably need to forget: there’s not always more time.

As a person of faith, I believe I will see her again. I believe that one day, the three of us will all be together again, sitting out on something resembling their lanai laughing about the good old days.

I do take comfort in that thought at times.

But it’s hard not to let the reminder of the short amount of time we have on this earth cloud that comfort sometimes.

We don’t want to think about how little time there is. No matter how long we live, even if we’re lucky enough to make it to 100, I imagine we might still hope for a few extra moments when our light finally begins to dim.

I have been blessed with some amazing people in my life over the years. I hate that this particular sweet spirit did not have more time with all of those she held so dear.

Perhaps I will try to take into 2022 a slightly stronger goal of being aware of how much time there is. With that, perhaps I will try to better express to those who are important to me just how important they are.

We never have the time we think we will. May we make better use of it going forward.

Rest in peace, dear Lynne. Thank you for your love and friendship and for being part of my chosen family.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.