July 15, 2005

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

We never know the day or the moment

You never know. Life happens and we never know what to expect, which is both a charm and a curse. Still, most of us think life is better than the alternative.

Control freaks like myself love to plan everything. We have lists for household chores, lists of bills to pay and itineraries for trips, which we may or may not take in the future. We make grocery lists and meal plans for days ahead, arrange parties, buy birthday and Christmas gifts as indicated throughout the year for our friends and relatives, and mark dates for rotating tires or changing the oil in the car.

The childhood story of the ant and the grasshopper was not lost on us. We’re determined to be the ant in every situation, prudent to the last. Like Boy Scouts, we’re always prepared.

But wait. Sometimes, life changes so dramatically, tragically or suddenly that all our lists and arrangements are worthless. And the lesson we learn from these events should be to treasure the moments that God gives us, plan or no plan.

Our health can change overnight due to illness or accident. One of our granddaughters proved this point recently when riding on a motorcycle with a friend on the highway. As so often happens, a motorist didn’t see them, came into their lane and forced them into the side barrier. It could have been a lot worse, but it was a nasty surprise to our granddaughter, who’s still skinned up and aching.

And, while we might expect a change in health to come with age, it’s not always the old who experience it. Early this spring, a dear friend who’s not even retirement age went through a terrible uncertain period in which she was deathly sick without a clear diagnosis. We all feared cancer, but it turned out to be a monstrous infection which thankfully could be treated with antibiotics. Today, she is on a slow road to recovery.

Another young friend, a fit person who runs regularly and watches his diet, suddenly experienced chest pains and discovered he had an arterial blockage. Now, after receiving a stent, he is fine. He jokes that he had another “stent” in the Army back in his younger days, but that doesn’t count.

Sometimes, sudden tragedy changes our lives forever. When our handicapped son, Andy, was 23 he had a serious accident and died within hours. At the time, our other children were raised and out on their own, so our lives revolved mainly around Andy’s current needs and plans for his future care. We were shocked to find how severely we experienced the “empty nest” syndrome after he died, because we expected our “everlasting baby” to outlive us all.

Life doesn’t always hand us bad surprises or unwelcome changes, thank the Lord. There are just enough happy and unexpected events around to keep us cheerful, things like the birth of a much-longed-for baby or finding a new job which proves to be better than the one we lost.

There are moments in life we need to just get through, gritting our teeth and keeping the faith. But there are other times, lovely moments of romantic or parental love, friendship, entertainment and intellectual stimulation. But every moment means we’re truly alive in the world. Praise God.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


Local site Links: