“If only” must be amongst the saddest words that are spoken – pre-fixing the regrets in our life. If only we had known, if only we had shown, if only we had done … the list goes on. For me “if only” is mostly about things left undone rather than the actions I have taken.
I had a big “if only” when my God-mother died unexpectedly and I had not gone to visit her. It was in my mind to do so and on my “To do” list but never got done. And all I could do at the end was to write her a letter and place it in her coffin. A half hour of time that should have been slotted into my life earlier “if only” I had been better organised. It was pure procrastination and lack of time management that kept me away.
So did I learn from this to avoid other such “if only’s”, to avoid procrastination and learn to manage my time better? I can’t say I have although I have improved and try to be a little bit more conscious for as my Dad used to say “time waits for no one” and “procrastination is the thief of time”. But I have slipped up on many occasions and often wished I had done better, particularly when death intervened to take loved ones away. I still have a lifetime of learning ahead of me.
No … not a lifetime for that is what this reflection is about. Lifetimes are not guaranteed. I may not be here tomorrow. I may be at the end of my “dash” (the line on our tombstone between our birth and death from the poem The Dash).
My cousin Mervyn who was with us on Tuesday is no more with us. He left this life on Sunday. Five days after we met him at a family get-together. He was looking low that day but I did not engage him in conversation as there were so many to talk to and he has been quiet since his recent illness. However a little bit into the evening I commented that he was looking troubled, and an Aunt explained he had an accident on the way in and was worrying about it. We tried to assure him to put it from his mind but it was clearly difficult for him. We all left together at the end of the evening and in the drive-way I noticed him fumbling with his keys so I offered to drive his car. He “assented” and I drove him and his wife to their home. My sister and a cousin followed and we saw them into his house, concerned that he looked very poorly. I spoke some words of comfort and assurance and left.
Four days passed. On the fifth he was called to his Maker. He had been seriously unwell about six months previously with dialysis. Worrying about the accident probably caused his heart attack.
Do I have an “if only”? I am not sure. I truly am happy I was given the grace to be perceptive when he was fumbling with the keys. I am not always so aware but somehow with so many in the drive-way, something alerted me. For that isolated, single, very small opportunity that came my way, I shall always be grateful – even though I realise now that although he “assented” he was perhaps way past caring. He was tired; sick and tired and to live was an effort. But I did not have that degree of perception to see that. Nor did I move beyond that miniscule act of mine to anticipate and think, to remember, to bear in mind to be watchful and alert when I came across someone in need. My cousin did. She and her mum visited on Friday.
I went about my daily life.
And so I do have an “if only” but it is about me …and life. If only I “remember to remember” what I value in life, to care about others, to keep them in mind, to lend a helping hand whenever and wherever I can; to be less engrossed in my life and be more mindful of the lives of others, for life is like thistledown …. gone with a puff of the wind. Gone for ever, without return.
If only I “remember to remember” that tomorrow, indeed the next hour, is not guaranteed, to me or anyone else I know.
Isn’t that what The Master taught us? If only I can “remember to remember” His words, then maybe I might live my life so that when I come to the end of my “dash” I never have any regrets, any “if only’s”.